Aging Veterans Still Unaware of VA Pension Benefits After Over 60 Years

For aging veterans, one of the most important benefit programs is the Aid and Attendance Program (A&A) available through the Veterans Administration. An earned pension benefit, it was established in 1951 to assist qualified veterans, and/or their surviving spouse. A&A provides pension benefits that enable veterans to live independently while receiving medical and non-medical care both in the home and in qualified facilities. The program remains generally unknown to most people.

Types of Care Eligible
The availability of this program is something all veterans and their surviving spouse should know about. The A&A can fund services such as in-home care, assisted living facility expenses and other medical costs that many seniors face.

Qualifications
To qualify for the A&A, a veteran must have served 90 days or more of active duty with at least one of those days served during a US-declared war. Service in a war zone is not required. Discharge must be for any reason other than dishonorable conditions and the age of 65 must be attained.

The benefits are designed for those who meet specific financial criteria and demonstrate a physical need for healthcare known as Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s). The Department of Veterans Affairs determines active duty as full-time service.

Costly Misunderstanding
There are several reasons why veterans are unaware of, or misunderstand these benefits. First is the name of the benefit itself. The Aid and Attendance Program is also known as the Veterans Non-Service Connected Improved Pension Benefit Program. Pension benefits usually come after years of service, not after only 90 days.

Many veterans often assume the available benefits are for those who have a service-related disability not just because they turned 65. As the name implies this program is a non-service connected benefit and does not require a disability and is available in part just by virtue of age.

Some may assume that their income is too high to qualify. The reality is not the gross amount received in income but what is left after deducting qualifying expenses for care. Many are surprised to learn that this net number puts them in a range for qualification.

Not applying in a timely manner may result in denial of benefits if the veteran passes before the application is completed and payments start. Upon death, the application process stops. If approved, benefits are paid retroactively back to the date of application.

Contributing to the lack of wider awareness of the program is that the Veterans Administration prohibits anyone from profiting from the assistance in making and filing the application for the benefit.

A useful resource is the State of Connecticut, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Advocacy and Assistance www.ct.gov/ctva . These district offices are staffed by knowledgeable veterans who can help shepherd what could be a lengthy and somewhat complicated process. The VA’s website is http://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/aid_attendance_housebound.asp.

Surviving Spouses
The A&A benefit is only available to the veteran during the veteran’s lifetime. After the veteran’s death, the surviving spouse may apply providing they were still married at the veteran’s death and the spouse did not remarry.

Other assistance can be provided through various national, county or local service organizations. In addition, in-home care providers like Comfort Keepers and senior care facilities can assist in accessing the information necessary to evaluate a person’s eligibility for the Veterans Improved Pension Benefit Program.

This article was submitted by Dennis Patouhas, owner of Comfort Keepers of Lower Fairfield County. He may be reached at 203-629-5029 or dennispatouhas@comfortkeepers.com