Veterans' Benefits: Information on Noncitizen Veterans Receiving VA Disability Compensation

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-09-12.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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GAO                                                 I’act, Shwt for the Chairman,
                                                    Committee on the Judictiary,
                                                    House of Representatives

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                                                    Information on
                                                    Noncitizen Veterans
                                                    Receiving VA Disability

GAO              United States
                 General Accounting Office
                 Washington, D.C. 20648

                 Human Resources Division


                 September 12,199O

                 The Honorable Jack Brooks
                 Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary
                 House of Representatives

                 Dear Mr. Chairman:

                 This fact sheet responds to your February 7, 1990, request for informa-
                 tion about the number of noncitizen veterans who served less than
                 3 years in the military and are receiving disability compensation from
                 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Your office also requested
                 information on the nature of the disabilities for which such veterans are
                 being compensated.

                 From time to time foreign citizens volunteer for and are inducted into
Background       the U.S. armed forces. Such people who have been discharged from the
                 armed forces under conditions other than dishonorable are entitled to
                 benefits administered by VA. Some became disabled and were discharged
                 from military service before completing 3 years of service.

                 Under current law (8 USC. 1439(a)) noncitizen veterans who have
                 served at least 3 years of military service may petition for naturaliza-
                 tion, without having to reside in the United States for the 5-year natu-
                 ralization period otherwise required. The veteran must petition,
                 however, while in the military service or within 6 months after termi-
                 nating military service. Legislation (S. 1186) has been introduced to
                 eliminate the 3-year requirement for veterans who were discharged
                 because they had become disabled.

                 The proposed legislation would allow veterans who served for any
                 period and were separated for a service-connected disability to qualify
                 for naturalization. Such veterans would still need to petition while in the
                 military service or within 6 months after separation.

                 We used VA’S October 1989 automated benefit payment file to estimate
Scope.and        the number of noncitizen veterans with less than 3 years’ military ser-
Methodology      vice who are receiving VA disability compensation. From this file, we
             u   extracted all veterans who have less than 3 years’ military service and
                 whose payments are sent to foreign addresses. We extracted data on
                 addresses because citizenship data are not in VA’S automated records.
                 This approach is limited in that it includes veterans, if any, who are U.S.

                 Page 1                        GAO/HRDM-163Fs   information on Noncitizen Veterans

                       citizens but have their payments sent to foreign countries. Conversely, it
                       does not include non-U.S. citizens residing in the United States who fit
                       our criteria. Therefore, our estimates should be taken as general indica-
                       tors of the numbers of noncitizens involved and not as exact figures. We
                       obtained information from the payment file on the nature (type and
                       extent) of the disabilities for veterans included in our total.

                       We also queried the Department of Defense (DOD) to obtain information
                       on the number of noncitizens discharged from the armed forces because
                       of a disability incurred before they completed 3 years’ military service,
                       as well as the number of noncitizens currently serving in the armed
                       forces. DOD, however, does not maintain such data in a format that we
                       could use for our estimates.

                       We reviewed the specific sections of the current law (8 U.S.C. 1439) to
                       be affected by S. 1186.

                       Our audit work was performed from February through June 1990. We
                       sought the views of VA and M)D officials during our work and incorpo-
                       rated their comments where appropriate.

                       Based on VA data, table 1 shows, by country, the number of disabled
Disabled Veterans by   veterans with foreign addresses and less than 3 years of service.

                       Page 2                        GAO/HRIMO-163FS Information on Noncitizen Veterans
Table 1: Disabled Veterans With Less
Than 3 Years’ Military Servlce Whose   Country                                                                Number of cases
Payments Are Sent to Foreign           Philippines                                                                        3,735
                                       Canada                                                                               693
                                       Germany                                                                              393
                                       Great Britain                                                                        166
                                       Mexico                                                                                146
                                       Italy                                                                                132
                                       Australia & New Guinea                                                                 80
                                       Greece                                                                                 71
                                       Ireland                                                                                66
                                       France                                                                                 6.5
                                       Israel (West of Jordan River)                                                          50
                                       SDain                                                                                  48
                                       Panama                                                                                 46
                                       Costa Rica                                                                             44
                                       Jaoan. Okinawa. & Rvu Rvo Island                                                       42
                                       Switzerland                                                                            35
                                       Israel                                                                                 26
                                       Dominican Republic                                                                     24
                                       Norwav                                                                                 24
                                       Sweden                                                                                 20
                                       Columbia                                                                               20
                                       Countries with fewer than 20 cases                                                   351
                                       Total                                                                              6,277

                                       Veterans in table 1 and many who will be discharged in the future may
                                       not be eligible for citizenship even if the proposed legislation is enacted.
                                       If veterans in table 1 have not already petitioned for naturalization,
                                       they would not be eligible because they have all been separated from the
                                       military for more than 6 months. Also, many Filipinos in table 1 may not
                                       be eligible for citizenship without living in the United States for 5 years
                                       because they served in the Philippines forces rather than the U.S.

                                       Finally, the Director of VA'S Compensation and Pension Service told us
                                       that in some cases, VA is unable to determine within 6 months whether a
                                       veteran’s disability is service-connected- a requirement for citizenship
                                       under the proposed legislation. Thus, VA officials believe that in the
                                       future some veterans may not petition for citizenship within 6 months
                                       of their discharge.

                                       Page 3                               GAO/HRD-90-163FS Information on Noncitizen Veterans

                                             DOD  officials told us that the Dkpartment does not maintain data to esti-
                                             mate the number of noncitizens discharged because of a disability
                                             incurred before they completed 3 years’ service or the number of non-
                                             citizens currently serving in the armed forces. DOD, however, estimated
                                             that about 7,500 noncitizens entered the military in fiscal year 1989.

                                             Veterans are eligible for disability compensation if they are partially or
Degrees of Disability                        totally disabled by injury or disease incurred or aggravated during mili-
for Veterans                                 tary service. Eligible veterans are assigned disability ratings ranging
                                             from 0 to 100 percent, according to the severity of the disability when
                                             compared to VA'S Schedule for Rating Disabilities. This rating establishes
                                             the amount of monthly compensation paid to disabled veterans (see
                                             table 2).

Table 2: Degree of Disability for Veterans
With Lees Than 3 Years’ Military Service                                                            Number of         Percent of
Whose Payments Are Sent to Foreign           Degree of disability (percent)                            cases              cases
Addresses                                    0                                                              175               2.8
                                             10                                                           1,906              30.4
                                             20                                                             962              15.3
                                             30                                                             970              15.4
                                             40                                                             570               9.1
                                             50                                                             474               7.6
                                             60                                                             317               5.0
                                             70                                                             215               3.4
                                             80                                                              88               1.4
                                             90                                                             33                0.5
                                             100                                                           567                9.0
                                             Total                                                       6,277

                                             VA  categorizes veterans’ disabilities into 14 body systems. Table 3 shows
Types of Disabilities                        the number of disabilities by body system for the 6,277 disabled vet-
                                             erans with less than 3 years of service and a foreign mailing address.
                                             Some veterans have more than one disability; thus the number of disa-
                                             bilities is much larger than the number of cases.

                                             Page 4                           GAO/HRDM-163l%   Information on Noncitizen Veterans

Table 3: Types of Disabilities of Veterans
With Less Than 3 Years’ Mllltary Service     Type of disabilities                                      Number of disabilities
Whose Payments Are Sent to Foreign           Musculoskeletal                                                             5,875
                                             Skin                                                                        1,959
                                             ResDiratorv                                                                 1,206
                                             Mental disorders                                                            1,073
                                             Eyes, ears, smell, and taste                                                  948
                                             Diaestive                                                                     698
                                             Neurolonical and convulsive                                                   596
                                             Cardiovascular                                                                459
                                             Svstemic diseases                                                             357
                                             Genitourinarv                                                                 265
                                             Endocrine                                                                      74
                                             Dental                                                                         58
                                             Hemic and IvmDhatic                                                            45
                                             GynecoloQical                                                                  18

                                             We are sending copies of this fact sheet to appropriate congressional
                                             committees; the Secretary of VA; the Secretary of Defense; the Director,
                                             Office of Management and Budget; and other interested parties. Please
                                             call me on (202) 275-6193 if you or your staff have any questions about
                                             it. Other major contributors to this fact sheet are listed in the appendix.

                                             Sincerely yours,

                                             Joseph F. Delfico             c/
                                             Director, Income Security Issues

                                             Page 6                         GAO/HRIM@163FS Information on Noncitizen Veterans
 Appendix I

 Major Contributors to This Fact Sheet

                   James F. Walsh, Assistant Director, (202) 2336281
Human Resources    Neil N. Miller, Assignment Manager
Division,          Joe A. Vance, Evaluator-in-Charge
Washington, D.C.   Joan Vogel, Evaluator (Computer Science)

(106706)           Page 6                      GAO/HRD90-163FS Information on Noncitizen Veterans
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