GLENDALE, Calif. — Veterans receiving disability benefits will get more money this year.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs regularly assesses the amount of disability benefits veterans receive to ensure it keeps up with inflation, but in the past two years increases have been less than $2. %. This year they will see the biggest increase in 40 years.
When veteran Terrell Mack looks back on his service, it’s mostly without good memories. He traded his dreams of a career as a journalist for the Marine Corps right out of high school when his family couldn’t afford college.
“Because my mother, may God rest her soul, she was always too sick to love, to guide me, so it’s like I was guiding myself,” Mack explained.
Six years and two deployments to the Middle East later, Mack literally kissed American soil when he landed at home. But like many veterans, he soon found himself unable to find his place as a civilian.
“Depression, drug addiction, alcoholism and such, to kind of take the pain away, you train,” Mack explained.
Homeless and sleeping in his truck until it was even robbed, Mack says he had hit rock bottom.
But then he met a veteran who worked for an outreach program within the Ministry of Employment Development, who took him under her wing. She helped Mack get approval for nearly free veteran housing and 100% disability benefits through Veterans Affairs.
It was all he needed to get back on his feet. Now it shows that the VA also increased the cost of living adjustment by 5.9%, the highest percentage in decades.
“With the new raise, that was the amount,” Mack explained, pointing to his digital paperwork, “but last year I was making less than 40% of that and it was really tough.”
Through that same outreach program, Mack met Dimetrios Vandiegriff, a local veterans employment representative working from home for EDD, who says helping veterans connect to services is the most rewarding job I have. ever had.
When he learned that veterans with a 100% disability rating would receive approximately $185 more per month, due to the cost of living adjustment, he shared it with all community partners with which he works.
“I was like oh! I was so excited, because it makes a difference,” Vandiegriff said.
The VA said that with high inflation, this increase was absolutely essential for so many disabled veterans who rely on compensation to make ends meet. Vandiegriff helps guide veterans who still struggle to find their way, but even he needs help dealing with countless bills.
“For me, working for the state and collecting my disability pension allows me to be totally independent,” Vandiegriff explained.
It was the assistance that changed Mack’s life.
“It’s a huge blessing to get this because now my family can just stabilize,” he said.