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Compton: Stand Down welcomes veterans in need

By George Compton
Saturday, May 30, 2009

Q. Will there be a Stand Down this year?

A. The Ventura County Stand Down will be held on July 24-26, at the California Army National Guard Armory in Ventura. Veterans are encouraged to pre-register. For additional information call 987-3118. Registration forms and transportation schedules are available at the Veterans Service Office. The Ventura County Stand Down invites homeless veterans for food, shelter, addiction treatment, VA benefits information and more.

Q. I understand that if a service member dies on active duty, the surviving spouse is entitled to an annuity. Is that a new benefit?

A. Before 9/11, only the surviving spouse of a retired military member was entitled to the annuity under the Survivor Benefit Plan. Now, an active duty death qualifies for the program as well. The annuity is calculated based on 75 percent of current active duty pay, and the surviving spouse gets an annuity based on 55 percent of that amount. If the service member had a base pay of $2,000 the SBP would be calculated at 75 percent, or $1,500, with the surviving spouse receiving 55 percent or $825, per month.

The surviving spouse should also file for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) with the VA. DIC is paid for a service-connected death. Currently DIC is $1,154 per month, and each minor child adds $286. Currently the spouse cannot get both annuities, but DIC is tax-free. There is proposed legislation to allow for both to be paid. DIC also includes education benefits for the spouse and minor children.

Q. I hope that you can help me figure out a VA education program. I have used my GI Bill for standard education, but I am hoping to go for technical certifications (CCNA and CCNP). I understand the GI Bill can help me in both paying for training and testing for these classes and certifications. What do I need to do or where can I look to find the answers to my questions?

A. You need to talk with a VA education adviser. The Montgomery GI Bill is managed out of the VA Regional Office in Muskogee, Okla. They have all the records of education benefits. You will need to have remaining education benefits available to you (the GI Bill is 36 months of full-time education) and you must use the benefits within 10 years of discharge. That regional office is two hours ahead of us so call early in the day, 888-442-4551.

— George Compton, a retired Army colonel, is the veterans service officer for the county Human Services Agency. Send your questions to Veterans Service Office, 1701 Pacific Ave., Suite 110, Oxnard, CA 93033, phone 385-6366, fax 385-6371, or e-mail

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