By T. Edmund Spinks, Esq.
There are currently over 25 million veterans alive in the United States. There are over 9 million surviving spouses of veterans currently living in the United States. Many of these veterans and surviving spouses are receiving long term care or will need some type of long term care in the near future, and there are funds available from the Veterans Administration (“VA”) to help pay for that care. Unfortunately, many of those who are eligible have no idea that any type of benefits exist for them or that an attorney can help them become eligible.
There are three types of benefits available that provide a monthly cash payment to veterans who have long term health care needs:
Service Pension. The VA provides a monthly cash payment to wartime veterans who meet active duty and discharge requirements, who are either 65 or older or disabled, and who have limited income and assets. Service pension is also available to a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran.
Pension with Housebound Allowance. A slightly higher monthly payment is available to wartime veterans (who meet the same service requirements as Service Pension) but who are confined to their home for medical reasons
Pension with Aid and Attendance. The highest monthly benefit is available when a wartime veteran or surviving spouse requires the assistance of another person to perform activities of daily living, is blind or nearly so, or is a patient in a nursing home. This benefit, often referred to simply as “Aid and Attendance” is the most widely known and talked-about benefit as it offers the highest possible monthly payment.
Prerequisites for Benefits
Wartime Service. As noted above, a veteran must first meet certain service and discharge requirements before being considered for any type of pension benefit. A veteran must have served 90 days of active duty with at least one day beginning or ending during a period of war. After September 1, 1980, the active duty requirement increases to 180 days. In addition, the veteran must have been discharged under circumstances other than dishonorable.
World War I
April 6, 1917 through November 11, 1918, inclusive. If the veteran served with the United States military forces in Russia, the ending date is April 1, 1920. Service after November 11, 1918 and before July 12, 1921 is considered World War I service if the veteran served in the active military, naval, or air service after April 5, 1917 and before November 12, 1918.
World War II
December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946, inclusive. If the veteran was in service on December 31, 1946, continuous service before July 26, 1947, is considered World War II service.
June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955, inclusive.
The period beginning on February 28, 1961, and ending on May 7, 1975, inclusive, in the case of a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. The period beginning on August 5, 1964, and ending on May 7, 1975, inclusive, in all other cases.
Persian Gulf War
August 2, 1990, through date to be prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law.
Disability. To qualify for any type of pension benefit, a claimant must also be 65 or older or be permanently and totally disabled. A claimant is the individual filing for benefits – either a veteran or surviving spouse.
Permanent and total disability includes a claimant who is: In a nursing home;
• Determined disabled by the Social Security Administration;
• Unemployable and reasonably certain to continue so throughout life; or
• Suffering from a disability that makes it impossible for the average person to stay gainfully employed.
Asset and Income Requirements
The financial eligibility requirements of any pension benefit address a claimant’s net worth and income. Many times the most difficult task in this area is to determine if veterans’ assets can meet the applicable level. The assistance of legal counsel is important to ensure the right strategies are used with minimal impact on Medicaid in the future.
Does the Claimant Require the Aid and Attendance of Another?
If a claimant can show, through medical evidence provided by a primary care physician or facility, that the claimant requires the aid and attendance of another person to perform activities of daily living, that veteran or surviving spouse may qualify for an additional special monthly pension commonly referred to as aid and attendance pension benefits.
The VA defines the need for aid and attendance as:
• Requiring the aid of another person to perform at least two activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing or undressing;
• Being blind or nearly blind; or
• Being a patient in a nursing home.
The Application Process
While the application process for special monthly pension can be slow – some applications take over a year before the VA makes a decision – the benefit is retroactive to the month after application submission. Having the proper documentation in place at the time of application (for example, discharge papers, medical evidence, proof of medical expenses, death certificate, marriage certificate and a properly completed application) can cut the processing time in half.
Time is of the essence for veterans or surviving spouses who may be eligible for pension benefits. It is imperative for those who work with veterans or surviving spouses of veterans to be aware of these benefits and to help potential claimants obtain legal help to qualify for pension benefits. If you know of someone who may be eligible, please give us a call.
SPINKS LAW FIRM