The Motion Picture & Television Fund’s VA Benefits Assistance Program has helped Hollywood’s military veterans and their families collect more than $500,000 in unclaimed retroactive Veterans Affairs benefits over the last five years — and more than $85,000 in ongoing monthly benefits, all tax free for life.
On Saturday, the MPTF will hold its 2nd annual VA Benefits Screening Day to help even more vets and their families receive the benefits they’ve earned.
The entertainment industry may not be thought of as one that employs many military vets, but the MPTF has found that about 10% of its clients are veterans or family members eligible for VA benefits. Since 2014, when the MPTF’s Social Services Department began formally tracking outcomes, it’s averaged more than 600 annual screenings of entertainment industry veterans, their surviving spouses, and parents of industry members who are eligible. Through these screenings and linkages to the VA for formal filing and processing, the MPTF program has helped veterans of military campaigns from World War II and the Korean War to Vietnam and the Iraq War.
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“We’ve made it our mission to reduce barriers to access to these benefits,” Naomi Rodda, director of MPTF Community Social Services, told Deadline. “Our message to industry veterans and their families is: Don’t leave money on the table. You served our country and you are entitled to these benefits.”
The majority of MPTF’s veterans are identified and screened when they reach out for other services and programs offered by the fund. Rodda, who recently obtained her own accreditation as a VA Claims Agent – which allows the MPTF to have a more direct role in assisting its military veterans and their families throughout the claims benefits process – says industry veterans and their families should not be deterred by the “bad rap” the VA bureaucracy has received in some quarters.
“The biggest lesson that I’ve learned in working on behalf of the veterans for almost 10 years now,” she said, “is that the individual Veterans’ Service Officers that are responsible for filing and processing MPTF’s clients’ claims have been very helpful and willing to go the extra mile to resolve complex issues.”
The MPTF notes that as word of its program has spread, two industry donors have stepped up with financial support of $100,000 each to broaden and sustain its work.
Saturday’s 2nd annual VA Benefits Screening Day will be held at the offices of the Costume Designers Guild, IATSE Local 892, in Burbank. Although a limited number of screening appointments remain for the event, MPTF plans to hold additional screenings and outreach events throughout 2019.
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