WBEZ | benefits http://www.wbez.org/tags/benefits Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Indiana's veterans service officers help vets get more benefits http://www.wbez.org/news/indianas-veterans-service-officers-help-vets-get-more-benefits-111398 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indianavso016_custom-e39d107fe13df481bde64af40dd8510467f310ea-s1500-c85.jpg" style="height: 427px; width: 620px;" title="Grant County Veterans Service Officer Bob Kelley, right, works with World War II Army veteran Frederick Kern at the Grant County Government Building in Marion, Ind., on Monday. Aaron P. Bernstein for NPR" /></div><p><em>NPR &mdash; along with seven public radio stations around the country &mdash; is chronicling the lives of America&#39;s troops where they live. We&#39;re calling the project &quot;</em><em><a href="http://www.npr.org/series/363340041/back-at-base">Back at Base</a></em><em>.&quot; This story is Part 2 of a three-part&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/13/376134776/va-data-show-disparities-in-veteran-benefits-spending" target="_blank">series</a></em><em>&nbsp;about veteran benefits.</em></p><p>The latest data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show Indiana &mdash; which has the 35th highest number of veterans in the U.S. &mdash; receives $4,935 per veteran each year. If they received as much as Utah &mdash; which has the 35th highest return &mdash; Indiana vets would receive on average another $558. And if they received the national average of $6,088, that&#39;s another $1,153.</p><p>Retired Brig. Gen. Jim Bauerele has spent years working to match veterans with their benefits.</p><p>&quot;I think Indiana has neglected veterans,&quot; he says. &quot;I think veterans are uneducated as to what their benefits are, and there has been little effort undertaken to communicate and get that to veterans.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/map-va-benefits-in.png" style="height: 462px; width: 320px; float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Source: NPR analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs data Credit: Robert Benincasa and Alyson Hurt/NPR" />Back in 2010, a VA survey found that nationwide&nbsp;<a href="http://www.va.gov/SURVIVORS/docs/NVSSurveyFinalWeightedReport.pdf" target="_blank">fewer than half of veterans</a>&nbsp;understood their benefits, whether it was medical care, college tuition or pension and disability payments.</p><p>There are all sorts of reasons why veterans in one area may not receive as many benefits as veterans in another. Veterans from different eras, such as Vietnam or Iraq, can receive different amounts. Older vets might receive more benefits.</p><p><a href="http://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/Applying.asp" target="_blank">VA applications</a>&nbsp;are also notoriously difficult to complete. Vets don&#39;t always get the help and guidance they need.</p><p>Bauerele says one reason for the poor showing in Indiana can be traced to what are called&nbsp;<a href="http://nacvso.org/" target="_blank">veterans service officers</a>&nbsp;(VSOs). County-level VSOs are part of a system operating in 28 states, and they&#39;re supposed to help vets get the benefits they&#39;ve earned. Some VSOs operate on the state level, and veterans groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have their own VSOs, which operate in most states.</p><p>Some county-level VSOs in Indiana operate on a shoestring.</p><p>&quot;Some counties have an officer who is part-time, works three days a week, part-time and doesn&#39;t even have an office or a computer,&quot; Bauerele says.</p><p>So depending on where they live, one vet might find an office with a full-time staff trained to file paperwork with the VA, while another might find a closed office, or a VSO who can&#39;t navigate the system.</p><p>And without help, filing a VA claim can be tough.</p><p>Tom Nichols, a 29-year-old Indiana National Guard veteran, has struggled to file his disability claim. After returning from Iraq in 2010, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol. Eventually, he landed in treatment for PTSD.</p><p>Not only does Nichols not understand his benefits &mdash; he doesn&#39;t really know the best way to get them, either. He hasn&#39;t tried a VSO because he says it&#39;s too much trouble.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve got to go to some VFW to track down this guy, and it&#39;s only the first Thursday of every month,&quot; Nichols says.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indianavso014_custom-2468c15859245a2a7f6c60de83e60d06824a0531-s1500-c85.jpg" style="height: 405px; width: 620px;" title="Pamphlets detailing services available to veterans are displayed in VSO Bob Kelley's office in Marion, Ind. Aaron P. Bernstein for NPR" /></div><p>So he filled out the paperwork himself. To some of the medical questions, he just wrote &quot;ask my doctor,&quot; which could be part of the reason his claim didn&#39;t go through. Advocates say the VA rejects claims for reasons as simple as using an outdated version of the form.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s basically on me to go out there and receive this,&quot; Nichols says.</p><p>But a trained VSO can cut months and years off the time it takes veterans to receive benefits from the VA.</p><p>&quot;You never want to apply for benefits on your own, unless you have some experience with it,&quot; says Bob Kelley, the VSO for Grant County, one of the Indiana counties receiving the most from the VA.</p><p>The VA&#39;s own data show&nbsp;<a href="http://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/surveysandstudies/state_variance_study-volumes_1_2.pdf" target="_blank">vets who give VSOs power of attorney</a>&nbsp;receive more than double the disability benefits of vets who file their own claims.</p><p>David McLenachen, acting deputy undersecretary for disability assistance for the VA, agrees that VSOs routinely help the system work.</p><p>&quot;It can be overwhelming for somebody to prepare a claim and submit it,&quot; he says. &quot;The VSOs can be very successful at helping with the claim process.&quot;</p><p>Kelley also goes to nursing homes and Veterans of Foreign Wars halls to tell veterans about their benefits, often on his own time. He would do more, but his county won&#39;t pay for an assistant until January.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s not a career,&quot; Kelley says. &quot;In the state of Indiana, it&#39;s not a career. When I retired from the military after 25 years, I was hired on at $28,000, and that&#39;s the average salary.&quot;</p><p>But the state is trying to give VSOs more resources in order to ensure all veterans have access to them.</p><p>In the past year, the state paid for software and training so county VSOs could file claims electronically. And for the first time, the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs set up workshops to explain federal benefits to vets.</p><p>Bauerele is part of the Military Veterans Coalition of Indiana, which is pushing to reform the system in Indiana. He&#39;d like to see better pay for county officers, and he wants the state to offer more help. VSOs like the American Legion already process thousands of VA claims.</p><p>&quot;Every dollar you give a veteran is new money from outside the state coming into the state,&quot; Bauerele says. &quot;That&#39;ll pay for a lot of Cadillacs, a lot of homes.&quot;</p><p><em>NPR&#39;s Robert Benincasa contributed to this report.</em></p><p>-<em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/14/374055310/indiana-s-veterans-service-officers-operate-on-a-shoe-string">via NPR News</a></em></p></p> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 08:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/indianas-veterans-service-officers-help-vets-get-more-benefits-111398 Allstate to trim retirement benefits http://www.wbez.org/news/allstate-trim-retirement-benefits-108085 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Allstate_130717_AYC.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Less than a month after it laid off more than 300 workers, Allstate Corp. announced on Monday plans to trim employee retirement benefits.</p><p>The Northbrook-based company said the move will boost its book value from $1.70 to $2 per share.</p><p>Jim Ryan, a senior analyst at Morningstar Inc., said the move will be difficult for employees but that it&rsquo;s what the market dictates.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s certainly something common among a lot of companies,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;To the extent that if a lot of companies do it and others don&rsquo;t, those [who] don&rsquo;t are disadvantaged on a cost basis.&rdquo;</p><p>Ryan also said he believed that Allstate would have a strong future because of plans to broaden its e-surance and online customer base.&nbsp;</p><p>Beginning this summer, the company will no longer offer life insurance to its retirees and introduce a new formula for employee pensions, reducing its contribution obligation.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid--6673237-ed63-921a-926c-01b586830a17"><em>Aimee Chen is a WBEZ business reporting intern. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/AimeeYuyiChen">@AimeeYuyiChen</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 11:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/allstate-trim-retirement-benefits-108085 Changing Gears: A live conversation about the future of unions http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-03-08/changing-gears-live-conversation-about-future-unions-83435 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Wisconsin Labor Protests_Getty_Justin Sullivan.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-08/Wisconsin Labor Protests_Getty_Justin Sullivan.JPG" style="width: 496px; height: 361px;" alt="" title="Getty/Justin Sullivan" /></p><p>As legislative fights over the rights and benefits of public sector employees continue in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/19/us/19union.html">some are calling this a watershed moment</a> for Big Labor.&nbsp;</p><p>Historically, the Great Lakes states have been a <a href="http://www.google.com/search?q=history+of+organized+labor+in+the+midwest&amp;ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;aq=t&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;client=firefox-a#q=history+of+organized+labor+in+the+midwest&amp;hl=en&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;hs=IWh&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;prmd=ivns&amp;tbs=tl:1&amp;tbo=u&amp;ei=vnB2Tff2L8Gp8AbFr4X2CA&amp;sa=X&amp;oi=timeline_result&amp;ct=title&amp;resnum=11&amp;ved=0CGQQ5wIwCg&amp;bav=on.2,or.&amp;fp=843bcea0b5a68ac4">bedrock of the labor movement</a> - going all the way back to the <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/571.html">labor struggles of the late 19th century</a>.&nbsp; But as more midwestern states and taxpayers find themselves strapped for cash, unions are coming under fire.&nbsp;</p><p>And the conversation is not just about pensions and health care benefits.&nbsp; It also includes curbing or eliminating collective bargaining rights.&nbsp;</p><p>That's raising an even bigger question:&nbsp; Should the Great Lakes states should follow the lead of their Southern counterparts and adopt expanded Right-to-Work laws?</p><p>That's just one of the questions at the heart of the Changing Gears live special Tuesday at 1pm CT called &quot;Hard Labor&quot;.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>We're talking with a range of experts about the current battles - and their possible implications for organized labor in the industrial Midwest.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Do unions have too much influence?&nbsp; Not enough? &nbsp;And what role should unions play in the economic future of our region?</p><p>Click on the audio icon at the top of the page to hear the special broadcast.</p><p><em>Changing Gears is an editorial project by WBEZ Chicago, Michigan Radio, and Ideastream in&nbsp;Cleveland exploring the future of the industrial Midwest.</em></p><p><iframe scrolling="no" height="550px" frameborder="0" width="470px" src="http://www.coveritlive.com/index2.php/option=com_altcaster/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=ab22b5cde8/height=550/width=470" allowtransparency="true">&lt;a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=ab22b5cde8" &gt;Changing Gears "Hard Labor" Live Chat&lt;/a&gt;</iframe></p></p> Tue, 08 Mar 2011 17:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-03-08/changing-gears-live-conversation-about-future-unions-83435 Time, benefits running out for jobless Hoosiers http://www.wbez.org/story/benefits/time-benefits-running-out-jobless-hoosiers <p><p>Things could go from bad to worse this weekend for thousands of unemployed Indiana residents. Beginning this Sunday, federal unemployment benefits will run out.</p><p>Many who are out of work are on federal extension 1 (EEUC &ndash; Emergency Extended Unemployment Compenstation), which provides 20 weeks of federal assistance.</p><p>But workers will lose those benefits because the U.S. Congress has been unwilling to extend them.</p><p>&ldquo;Based on this, we&rsquo;re estimating about 4,000 Hoosiers a week will begin exhausting their benefits as of this Sunday,&rdquo; said Valarie Kroeger, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the state&rsquo;s unemployment services agency.</p><p>But the draught on unemployment benefits will likely continue. Even more unemployed Hoosiers are at risk of losing benefits as the weeks go on, Kroeger said.</p><p>According to Kroeger, an additional 16,000 people are on the Extended Benefit (EB), which provides up to 13 additional weeks of assistance through the federal government. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a benefit of last resort,&rdquo; Kroeger said.</p><p>Many Hoosiers on start to lose EB benefits starting Dec. 12.</p><p>Kroeger said unless Congress extends unemployment benefits for all programs, there&rsquo;s not much states like Indiana can do.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re Congress. They can do pretty much whatever they want,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>But Kroeger said the state of Indiana can still provide some services to unemployed residents.</p><p>&ldquo;Our Work One centers can help Hoosiers get back in the workforce. Whether it be through resume development, whether they need to brush up on their career skills, computer skills or if they need training,&rdquo; Kroeger said. &ldquo;We also have business consultants that are out in the community working with local businesses and they know who&rsquo;s hiring. So if you come to our Work One centers we can work with you to find someone who is hiring in your field and help you get your foot in the door.&rdquo;</p><p>Unemployment news isn&rsquo;t much better in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Employment Security estimates 127,000 people in the state could lose jobless benefits this month.&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 04 Dec 2010 16:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/benefits/time-benefits-running-out-jobless-hoosiers