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VA Benefits – A Little of the Old and a Little of the New

By Trish Hughes Kreis, Staff Writer
(Page 1 of 3)  

The gratitude we give to the honorable and brave men and women serving our country would be incomplete if we did not also extend that gratitude to their families. Families have long been the backbone of support for our service men and women during both their active duty and after. The VA provides numerous programs for veterans and now their caregivers. Many programs have been around for quite some time and others have recently been enacted.

A little known program provided by the VA is the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit. This can be a huge help to veterans and their families.

  1. What is it? The Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit is the highest level of the Pension Benefit awarded and can provide extra monetary assistance if the veteran needs help with dressing, bathing, cooking or eating. This is paid in addition to the veteran’s monthly pension. There is also a “Housebound” Pension program, but benefits for both programs cannot be received at the same time. The Housebound Pension program is also paid in addition to the veteran’s monthly pension, but is at a lower rate than the Aid and Attendance Program and has different requirements for eligibility.

  2. Who is eligible? Any war-time veteran with 90 days of active duty (only one of which needs to begin or end during war-time) may be eligible for the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit. A surviving spouse of a war-time veteran may also be eligible. (The Housebound Pension Program has different requirements for qualifying.) Please visit the Web site of the Department of Veterans Affairs for more detailed information about qualifying for these benefits (http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/pension/vetpen.htm#7).

  3. Where do I start? If you think you or your spouse may be eligible for these benefits, do not be daunted by the lengthy application process. The benefits under the Aid and Attendance Pension program are vastly under utilized and will be worth any difficulty in applying. An excellent resource for information on this program and the documents needed to complete the application is the VeteranAid.org group. The information available to help with the application process is detailed and thorough and can be found at http://www.veteranaid.org/apply.php. It is necessary to apply for the benefits at the regional office having jurisdiction over your claim, which is the same office where the original pension benefits claim was filed. A list of regional offices can be found at http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/ro/rocontacts.htm.

  4. What happens next? Unfortunately, this process can take four to six months (or even longer). However, if the person applying for the benefits is 70 years or older, the application can be expedited and should be, but be sure to request it. In the event the benefits are denied, there is an appeals process. Mistakes occasionally happen, so it is highly recommended to appeal the decision if the benefits are denied. It can’t hurt and you have nothing to lose. A pamphlet explaining the appeals process can be obtained at any VA Regional office or online at http://www.bva.va.gov/docs/Pamphlets/010202A.pdf. It is important to note a Notice of Disagreement is the first step in an appeal and must be filed within one year of the date the local VA mails you the original decision denying your claim. Extra help may be needed during the appeals process, so please consider using an attorney or another skilled representative to assist you with your claim.


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