I attended two wonderful Veterans Day celebrations this week. One was hosted by the city of Richmond Hill, and the other was at my church. Both provided wonderful tributes to, and recognition of, our service men and women who have fought so gallantly to keep our country the greatest place on Earth.
Those famous last words of our national anthem — “the land of the free and the home of the brave” — never ring more true than for those who have served, especially during wartime. It is important that we as a country do all that we can to honor our wartime veterans’ unselfish sacrifices.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are roughly 22 million United States veterans, with slightly more than 50 percent of that number who have served in World War II, the Korean Conflict and/or the Vietnam era. More than a half-million wartime vets live in Georgia, and many of them are approaching retirement age and older.
One of the big concerns for our veterans, as for many seniors, is the issue of living longer than one’s financial resources will support. It’s a shame when folks have to worry about outliving their money.
Fortunately, the VA has a couple of programs for wartime veterans and their spouses that provide financial assistance with expenses associated with aging-care needs and disabilities. These programs, which fall under the VA’s pension department, are Aid and Attendance (A&A) and Housebound. They are underused benefits and not readily known to the general public, but may provide enough financial support to help veterans and spouses acquire the assistance they need.
The A&A pension provides benefits for veterans and surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist with activities such as eating, bathing, dressing, meal preparation and daily hygiene. This also includes individuals who are blind or in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Care in an assisting-living community or personal-care home also qualifies. This program also will pay benefits when there is a need for in-home care.
Qualification for A&A needs to be established by a physician that one requires daily assistance. There needs to be adequate medical evidence that you cannot function completely on your own. The A&A pension can provide up to $1,732 per month to a veteran, $1,113 per month to a surviving spouse or $2,054 per month to a couple. This benefit can pay for a third to almost half of the monthly cost to live in an assisted-living community.
Regarding the Housebound monthly pension, the benefit may be added to your monthly pension amount when you are substantially confined to your immediate premises because of permanent disability. A veteran/spouse cannot receive both Aid and Attendance and Housebound Benefits at the same time.
Now comes the tricky part: Applying for these benefits requires time and patience. It is not uncommon to wait six months or longer for the A&A benefits to be approved. There also are financial qualifications one must meet to receive these benefits. My advice would be to work with an elder-law attorney or a financial planner who has experience with applying for these benefits.
The good news is that benefits are retroactive from the time an application is accepted. So apply as early as possible, and then follow up periodically to make sure your application is being processed accordingly. Go to www.nasv.org for more information.
DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. Email him at Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com.