The basics of an oft-misunderstood VA pension benefit that is available for veterans and their widowed surviving spouses.
Wartime veterans and their surviving spouse with limited incomes, who are totally and permanently disabled for reasons not traceable to their service, may be eligible to receive compensation under the NSC (non-service connected) VA disability program. There are two disability programs available through the VA that pays monthly benefits to disabled veterans. They are:
1. Disability Compensation (service related disabilities)
2. Disability Pension (non-service related disabilities)
This article will focus on the Disability Pension. Under this Pension there are three pension benefit levels. They are:
1. Disabled Veteran unable to work
2. Housebound disabled veteran or surviving spouse
3. Disabled Veteran or surviving spouse who needs aid & attendance care
Let’s focus and drill down more on the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit Provision.
Most VSO (Veterans Service Organizations) and VCO (Veterans Commission Offices) provide very little information on the aid & attendance provision of the disability pension. This lack of communication along with the large government bureaucracy and run-around most veterans or surviving spouses experience when dealing with the VA has led to many eligible individuals to not fully receive the benefits they earned and are entitled.
This benefit provided by the Veteran’s Administration (VA) is the “Improved Pension Disability Pension with Aid and Attendance entitlement” but often called just the Aid and Attendance VA Benefit.
It is available to certain wartime veterans who are totally disabled because of a non-service connected condition; who are in financial need; and who need the aid and attendance of another person in order to avoid the hazards of the daily environment.
This Improved Pension program allows for Veterans who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing, undressing or taking care of the needs of nature to receive financial benefits paid to them monthly.
An improved pension benefit is also available for the surviving spouse of the wartime veteran. The spouse is only eligible for this VA financial assistance when he or she is a widow and has not remarried. This improved pension is called the “Improved Death Pension Benefit with Aid and Attendance entitlement.” The eligibility requirements are identical but the monthly benefit is a lower dollar amount.
Applying for the pension benefit is not difficult.
It requires you to complete a long application and provide documentation. The VA is picky on how the documentation looks and what it states. Of particular confusion is the medical documentation. The VA has three different medical forms and none of them are doctor friendly.
The real difficulty with applying for the VA disability pension benefit is understanding what the VA really wants, in what format and when. Add to that the really confusing multiple letters you will get during the claim processing.
Here is an example. You send in everything that is required in the right format and on the right forms. You then receive a letter from the VA that lists that they need this huge list of information and documents to support the claim and to further process the application. It is not until the 4th or 5th page of this letter that you see a small list of items they have received with your claim application. GiBill.Va.Gov
Confused? You bet.
Do you still need to send in additional information? Was what you sent them okay, or do they want more?
To add to the confusion there is this form called the “VCAA Notice Response” and it has only two boxes to check. One box asks if you want an additional 60 days to send in supporting information. The other box says they will adjudicate your claim immediately because you don’t want to send in any more supporting information.
What to do? Panic and self-doubt sets in. Nothing in the letter tells you what to do. It sounds like they want more information. Why did they send all these additional forms to fill out?
Should you sign this form that wants you to Authorize Release of Medical Information? You sent in the doctor’s evaluation with the original application, wasn’t that good enough?
The vast majority of people wish they knew how to respond and understand these confusing letters from the VA.
Why do they make it so hard to get this financial assistance?
Hundreds of people have turned to an Aid and Attendance Handbook from Veterans Care Advisors to get these answers, and more. Understanding what the VA wants when you apply for the Aid and Attendance (just one of the little-known veteran benefits) can make the difference between a faster approval or even getting approved.
In the example above – Checking one box will add 4 months onto the claim processing where checking the other box will result in you getting your financial assistance within 60 days. Which box should you check – and why? http://www.VeteransCareAdvisors.com provides the answer to this question along with real samples of the numerous letters the VA will send you.
There is an easier way to get the money you deserve from the VA with all the answers to your questions.GiBill.Va.Gov
Greg Cook is a consultant with extensive experience dealing with governmental agencies in the financial world and with major non-profit organizations. He has helped hundreds of senior citizens successfully navigate the long term care industry.
He is a senior advocate, geriatric care manager and a Certified Senior Advisor. To learn more about how to qualify for up to $1,843 per month in VA financial assistance, visit Mr. Cook’s website; Veterans Care Advisors dot com.