Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Detroit

The VA's Best Kept Secret
"Aid and Attendance Pension"

With much attention and looming dark clouds directed at health care and social security over the years, there now seems to be a ray of light coming from another direction. The VA NSC Improved Pension with Aid and Attendance is that ray of light. But what is it?

Over 50 years ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs instituted a pension that would help wartime veterans and their surviving spouses in the event of medical need. This benefit is just now starting to get the public's attention even though it has been around for quite some time. Some news stations are beginning to air stories that are detailing some of the features of this benefit. NBC Nightly News aired a 2-minute segment on the VA NSC Improved Pension with Aid and Attendance. They featured the relieved and grateful families who applied for the benefit and received it at a time when they needed to find a way to pay the mounting costs of monthly care their parents were receiving. Because of news stories like this, there is increased interest and more people are trying to learn about this benefit and how it can help. With a great deal of our senior population being wartime veterans or surviving spouses of wartime veterans, this benefit can have a huge impact on their lives.

Here is how it works—in the event a wartime veteran or a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran needs the assistance of others on a daily basis to perform the activities of daily living, they could qualify for help from the VA. For example, Ed is a WWII veteran and has a wife, Lois. If Ed had to go into an assisted living environment because of his declining health or he needs in-home care, he and Lois could receive $1,949 per month from the VA. The same would hold true in this example:  June is the surviving spouse of a Korean War veteran. June has to move into an assisted living facility due to back and hip problems. She could receive $1,055 per month from the VA. The range of this benefit can be from $1,055 to $2,527 per month depending on the circumstances.

But, unfortunately, it is not always that cut and dry. The VA does have asset and income criteria. The veteran has to be honorably discharged. It can, in some cases, take up to 12 months to get an answer from VA. But don't lose hope. There are many ways to qualify even if you have too much money or income. We are even starting to see some applications get approved in two months. Another point to keep in mind is that this pension is retroactive to the date of your informal application claim and is not taxed in any way by the government.

In order to get started, you can call the local Department of Veterans Services office in your county. They can help you start a claim but unfortunately when you contact these offices, not everyone is familiar with the benefit, so you have to find the right person. It is also important that you use a veteran's service organization to help represent you with the VA. Membership with a service organization is not required. The American Legion is an example of an excellent service organization. There are over 30 organizations to choose from that you can use to help you with your case.

Working with the VA through a service organization is a good fit for most folks who meet all of the qualifications for the benefits. If you have questions about eligibility they can help you determine if this benefit is for you.

Sometimes families looking for assistance will not meet every qualification put forth by the VA. You can also find out more information on how to qualify by contacting organizations in the area that specialize in assisting veterans with this process. They can help with the paperwork, recommend a service organization and guide you through the process at no cost to you.

If a veteran or surviving spouse thinks he or she may be eligible for the benefit, he or she can call 313-964-6640 and discuss it with an American Legion Service Officer. There are also several web sites that can offer information including Veterans Support Center at www.veteransupportcenter.org and the VA website www.va.gov.

To receive this benefit, there is a lot of paperwork to do and a lot of documentation and records that need to be produced. This will take a lot of time, but in the end, you can get help and it will be well worth your time and effort.

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