By Karen Cifala
It seems fitting to mention Veterans Benefits in this month’s column for seniors because at The Gathering, being held at the Clarke County fairgrounds the last weekend in October, they will be honoring all Military Veterans and Uniformed Services Personnel with special recognition at the beginning of the Harvest Dance on Saturday October 31.
Bridging the gap between funds and expenses can be harder for some of our aging veterans. Many of our Veterans are not aware of the benefits available for them as they age. These benefits can cover paid caregivers and family members who are caregivers; however spouses are not eligible to receive payments. This might be the help our senior veterans need to help them age in place with dignity. This “Improved Pension” benefit is underused by the nation’s veterans, and is largely unknown. This pension benefit IS NOT dependent upon service-related injuries for compensation.
Veterans, who are eligible for a VA pension, may be eligible for additional monetary payments if they require the aid and attendance of another person or are housebound. The Aid & Attendance and Housebound Pension program is a benefit program for veterans if they initially meet the following requirements:
Require the aid of another person to perform personal functions such as bathing, feeding etc.
Your disability requires that you remain in bed or that you are bedridden
You are a patient in a nursing home due to mental illness or physical incapacity
Your eyesight is limited
The Aid and Attendance Benefit is the third tier of the VA’s Improved Pension, and each tier (Basic and Housebound are the other tiers) has its own benefits and qualifications. This Pension is not new and has been around for 61 years.
Don’t be dissuaded from applying because every veteran 65 and older is automatically considered disable by the VA.
If you are confined to your immediate premises because of permanent disability, this increased monthly pension may be added to your regular monthly pension. To apply for this benefit, write to the VA regional office where you filed a claim for pension benefits. If you don’t know the office then you may file with any VA regional office. According to the VA, it is forbidden to charge a veteran for filling out these application forms. The forms are easy enough for everyone to fill out on their own.
If a veteran qualifies, they may also benefit from:
basic pension, adapting housing grants, mortgage life insurance, disability compensation if post-service disability related, survivors pension, healthcare, home loans, burial assistance including a headstone or grave marker, death benefits including a flag drape over the casket – state veterans home programs – free tax preparation
Dementia care has not been ignored by the Veterans Administration. With our aging population, The VA has recognized that the number of people diagnosed with dementia continues to grow.
There are specific programs designed to address these issues such as:
Geriatric Evaluation Units (in hospitals serving veterans)
Special care units for veterans including memory care and long term care.
Respite care for caregivers.
Caregiver support groups.
Linking veterans to non-va services.
Don’t’ give up too easily on applying for these benefits. If you have been turned down once before, try again, you might be able to pursue other avenues. You can also appeal the decision. Gather as much information as you can about the senior’s military service (service dates, discharge papers etc.) before applying. The investment in time spent to seek out and apply for some of these benefits might be the key to relieving some financial stress and strain that your senior veteran is experiencing.
Veteran Aid website:
US Department of Veterans Affairs – Help with applying
Karen Cifala is a SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) Realtor for REMAX Roots in Berryville, VA. She welcomes receiving feedback and enjoys working with families and seniors. You can call her anytime at 303-817-9374 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.