The VA aid and attendance program is getting more and more attention lately. It is about time that this little known disability benefit for individuals who served active duty during official time of war are getting their benefits. Now that the news is out about this non-service connected disability pension benefit it is time to make sure all eligible individuals learn about it.
WWII Merchant Marines Aid and Attendance
Merchant Marines during the second world war may be eligible to receive this VA aid and attendance benefit.
During WWII a convoy system was put into place to provide the British Isles with food and materials for war. These convoys were a collection of between 30 to 70 merchant ships. American and Canadian merchant ships carrying vital supplies to Britain played a critical role in Britain’s survival from German invasion. These ships were unarmed at first but as the German u-boats began to attack and sink the ships of the convoys, the Battle of the Atlantic began.
The crews of these merchant ships were placed in great peril as the German’s began to implement strategic and coordinated attacks on the convoys. The ships were quickly armed and naval frigates and on occassion destroyers began to escort these convoys. In addition, larger convoys were assembled and assembled according to the speed of the individual ships. This way, the faster ships were less exposed to danger as they were from being grouped with much slower merchant ships. Despite these alterations, all convoys faced an above average risk of attack, especially prior to the United States entering the war.
Due to this tremendous danger the VA allows the entire civilian crews of these merchant ships to be eligible for the non-service connected disability pension benefit under the VA aid and attendance program. The entitlement only applies to those crew members who served on ocean-going merchant ships. Those that traveled the great lakes do not qualify unless they crossed the Atlantic or traveled along the American (North and South) coasts.
The merchant ship crew member will need to have the ship voyage discharge record for each voyage. Typically the crew would serve on different ships. These documents need to be sent to the Coast Guard who will issue the necessary official document to establish time of service eligibility. The Coast Guard will need photocopies of these individual ship discharges, identification, and other supporting documents. For widowed surviving spouses of a WWII merchant marine crew member please make sure to include a certified death certificate.
Merchant Marine Service Records including Voyage Discharges from U.S. Coast Guard:
Include Name, Date of Birth, copy of Death Certificate if deceased, Social Security number, Address, and Z or Service number.
USCG-National Maritime Center (NMC-421)
ATTN: Correspondence Section
100 Forbes Drive
Martinsburg, WV 25404
Merchant Mariners in “ocean-going service” during World War II do indeed have Veteran Status. In addition to the VA aid and attendance program they may be entitled to a gravestone, flag for their coffin, and burial in a National Cemetery.
If you cannot locate the individual ship discharge documents you can contact:
Service Records for U.S. Maritime Service, Army Transport Service, Navy Transport Service, Military Sea Transportation Service, Military Sealift Command:
National Personnel Records Center-Civilian Records Facility has personnel and medical records of former Federal civilian employees from approximately 1900 to the present. Your letter should include:
Full name used during Federal employment
Social Security Number
Date of Birth
Name(s) of Federal employing agency(s)
Approximate dates of Federal employment, especially separation
Please state in your letter the information you are seeking. Your request must contain the individual’s or authorized representative’s signature.
National Personnel Record Center
111 Winnebago Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63118