I guarantee you that the VA DOES NOT "automatically classify wartime
veterans as totally disabled at age 65." I believe there is quite a bit of
disinformation in this message. We checked into this for my father-in-law and
there are income and asset requirements.
In a message dated 10/2/2012 9:30:12 A.M. Central Daylight Time,
This is a
heavy read, but brings to light a life & money saving VA benefit little
known. Please print it out and read it !
veterans age, many are unfamiliar with a benefit that can help pay for care
at home or in assisted living or a nursing home.Here's a riddle: When is a government benefit that pays for
caregivers, assisted living and a nursing home not a benefit? When hardly any people know they're entitled to
to be the story with a Department of Veterans Affairs benefit called the
Attendance and Housebound Improved Pension benefit,
known as A&A, which can cover the costs of caregivers in the home
(including sons and daughters who are paid to be caregivers, though not
spouses) or be used for assisted living or a nursing home.
is not insignificant: up to $2,019 monthly for a veteran and spouse, and up
to $1,094 for the widow of a veteran.
that you've never heard of it? You're not alone.
probably one of the lesser-known benefits," said Randal Noller, a Veterans
Affairs spokesman in Washington. Of the 1.7 million World War II veterans
alive as of 2011, who were in need of caregiving assistance
and thus eligible, only 38,076 veterans and 38,685 surviving spouses were
granted the A&A benefit that year, according to Mr. Noller.
is not the first to acknowledge A&A is a well-kept secret. Jim
Nicholson, former secretary of Veterans Affairs, said in a December
2006 news release that "not everyone is aware of his or her potential
eligibility" for the program, which he called an "underused"
Not much has
changed. A search of the Veterans Affairs Web site for evidence of public
information efforts in the six years since came up blank.
thing is, it's been an entitlement for 61 years, but it's sat idle — the
V.A. employees just haven't been educated about it," said Debbie Burak of
Midlothian, Va. She said she repeatedly called department offices on behalf
of her father, a World War II veteran, and her mother, who became homeless
after their house caught fire and their injuries required extensive care.
She was told there were no benefits they were entitled to. (Indeed, when I
called two Baltimore-area Veterans Affairs offices for my father, a World
War II veteran, no one had heard of this benefit or any benefit that paid
for caregivers or assisted living or nursing homes.)
end of life was so difficult. They lost everything, were living in a
terrible hotel, ran up every credit card we had," Ms. Burak said. "My mother
begged us not to cremate her, but there was no money for a burial; we had no
It was only
after her father died that Ms. Burak discovered her parents would have been
entitled to as much as $160,000 over the last decade through the Aid and
Attendance benefit. She applied, but no money arrived before her mother
said the program's low visibility might be an effect of the size of the
department. "The V.A. is the second-largest agency in the federal
government, and you can't expect everybody to know everything," he said,
referring to the agency's work force.
the information gap, Ms. Burak introduced VeteranAid.org, a Web site
and a 501(c)(3) charity, in 2005, to provide information about A&A
eligibility and how to apply.
a veteran need not have suffered a service-related injury. He or she only
had to have clocked at least one day of his or her 90-day
minimum military service during a time of war and need
caregiving for activities of daily living.
be confusing and arduous. If you know the program's name and search the
Veterans Affairs Web site for Aid and Attendance, the first page states,
among other things, that you are not eligible for A&A unless you already
qualify for a basic Veterans Affairs pension — for which you have to be
than a little misleading.
don't know is that when wartime veterans turn 65, the V.A. automatically
classifies them as `totally disabled,' " Ms. Burak said. And if they meet
income and asset criteria, they are eligible for a basic pension.
benefit can be more than 50 percent higher than the basic
veteran's pension($24,239 annually for a veteran and spouse with
A&A, versus $16,051 for a basic pension). The income and asset cutoffs
are also higher than for A&A benefits.
McCarty, of Fort Worth, is one of the lucky ones who applied for A&A —
and got it. She heard about it when the assisted living facility where her
father-in-law, Robert McCarty, 92, was living, held a seminar on
a former certified public accountant, started researching the application
process at the Veterans Affairs site, but, she said, "the VeteranAid.org
site was much clearer." She found all the forms she needed, and her
father-in-law received the first check in record time — six
Veterans Affairs officers are in the dark about A&A.
Annette Cadena's parents were in a car accident and moved to a nursing home
in their tiny hometown, Fossil, Ore., it was the local Veterans Affairs
officer, Paul Conroy (now retired), who saw her on the street and mentioned
that her parents might qualify.
skeptical, to be honest," said Ms. Cadena. "My husband did two tours in Iraq
and has worked 30 years for the Washington State Army National Guard
coordinating with the V.A. to help veterans, and he had never heard of
applied in August 2009, and nine months later her parents started receiving
the maximum $2,019 per month.
was a lifesaver. That is, until her father, Clinton Ray, died on Aug. 5. The
payments to her mother, Bessie Ray, stopped, even though widows of veterans
are also entitled to this benefit.
her off cold," Ms. Cadena said, and told her she would have to apply all
over again as a widow, which could take 9 to 18 months. "My mother said,
`Oh, my God, are they going to kick me out of the home?'" Ms. Cadena
the benefit comes through, it can make a real difference.
Hruska's mother, 85, had run through all her savings after seven years of
worsening Alzheimer's and round-the-clock care in her apartment in Coconut
Creek, Fla. Assisted living was the next step, but Ms. Hruska didn't know
how they would pay for it, with Social Security her only income.
"One of the
assisted living facilities we visited asked if my dad had been in the
service," and mentioned A&A, Ms. Hruska recalled. So she filled out the
26-page Veterans Affairs application — which used to be only four pages —
and on Sept. 1, six months after applying, she received the first monthly
check for $1,019. "This relieves a lot of tension," Ms. Hruska
note: Scams abound. The department forbids anyone to charge to help veterans
fill out these challenging forms, yet a growing number of companies — many
of which, on a Web search for "Aid and Attendance," pop up with waving flags
and red-white-and-blue banners — offer to "help" veterans fill out the forms
free, then charge thousands of dollars for financial consultation.
Burak warns: "Financial planners at assisted living facilities are putting
on seminars about the A&A benefit — but it isn't out of the goodness of
their hearts. They are trolling for residents who have too much money to
qualify, to get them to move assets into annuity products that don't count
as income or assets and yield big commissions." (This is possible because,
unlike Medicaid, with its five-year lookback, Veterans Affairs has no
lookback on asset transfers.)
department does not reveal maximum allowable assets. But $80,000 (the house
and a car are exempt from this total) seems to be in the ballpark, though
someone with more assets could still qualify if expenses were very high,
according to Ms. Burak.
limits are not set in stone either. But the maximum is around $20,000 to
$23,000 after deducting costs for medical expenses,
caregivers, assisted living or nursing home fees.
are taking advantage of A&A to protect assets for their heirs, Ms.
McCarty said. Still, she said,"it's a wonderful benefit."