By Elaine Zimmermann
Fran: My widowed mother needs to move into an assisted living facility. My siblings and I cannot afford it. Someone mentioned that because my father was a World War II veteran, there may be some assistance we can get with this expense. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated.
Elaine: I am so glad you asked me this question on the heels of Memorial Day. Yes, there is help for veterans and their widows for the expenses for an assisted living facility or home health care that almost no one knows about. It is the Aid and Attendance level of the VA's "Improved Pension". The A & A Pension Benefit was instituted in 1951, and is not dependent upon service-related injuries.
The A & A Pension provides benefits for veterans and surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing or taking care of the needs of nature. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Assisted care in an assisting living facility also qualifies.
To qualify for A&A it needs to be established by your physician that you require daily assistance by others. You do not have to require assistance with all of these. There simply needs to be adequate medical evidence that you cannot function completely on your own.
The A&A Pension can provide up to $1,632 per month to a veteran, $1,055 per month to a surviving spouse, or $1,949 per month to a couple.
Eligibility must be proven by filing the proper Veterans Application for the Pension Benefit. Use Form 21-534 for a surviving spouse, such as your mother. Use Form 21-526 for a veteran. The application requires a copy of the veteran's DD-214 (you can request a copy from vetrec.archives.gov) or separation papers, a medical evaluation from a physician, current medical issues, net worth limitations, net income, along with out-of-pocket medical expenses.
According to Debbie Burak, Veteranaid.org, who provides information about this program and assists people nationwide at no charge, "I found out about this program after my siblings and I emptied our bank accounts to get care for my mother. I began the website so no other family would endure the hardship we went through."
Burak explains, "One thing you can expect is that it will take between 4-6 months on average for your application to be processed and to receive a determination letter. Due to the current backlog of claims to be processed this timeframe can be much longer. Some assisted living facilities will work with you if they know the resident qualifies for A&A. Fortunately, all benefits are retro-dated back to the original filing date. You can request the process be expedited if the applicant is over 70 years of age."
Burak adds, "Unfortunately there are many scammers who prey on veterans when they are most vulnerable. Make sure anyone who assists you is VA certified."
Elaine Zimmermann is a personal finance expert who was written about everyday ways to save money on cars, homes, vacations and more. For information on investing in foreclosed real estate you can visit her website at www.AskElaineZ.com.