Help your veteran parent close financial gaps with this overlooked VA benefit.
By Trudi Roth
Is your mom or dad a veteran? Worried about their finances? This lesser-known VA benefit may help cover costs for assisted living or in-home care.
In today’s guest post, Trudi Roth explains why families are too quick to give up on the claims process, and why it pays to get the right kind of expert help.
Thanks for caring,
“Love is a battlefield.”
Pat Benatar was singing about romantic love. But it also takes love to fight for your parent’s health, safety, and dignity — especially when the path forward is littered with financial landmines like the cost of assisted living or in-home caregivers.
After my mom lost her years-long battle with cancer, my dad’s health began declining. Fortunately, he was open to moving to a community. But his income was limited, and the places we liked best were pricey.
One day, while helping my dad clean out his apartment, I bumped into a guy doing the same for his widowed mom. We struck up a conversation, and he asked me a game-changing question: “Was your dad a vet?”
If you can answer this question affirmatively, as I did, your parent(s) may be eligible for monthly compensation that helps cover residential facilities or in-home care for vets (or their surviving spouse) who need help with daily activities or are housebound.
But first, a word of caution: According to my source for this article, a whopping 76% of pension claims submitted by veterans or their families to the VA or through county VA representatives are denied.
The good news is the denials are often based on minor technicalities. So do not engage the VA bureaucracy without a plan!
Here’s the intel you need to get your veteran parent their well-deserved pension benefits.
My dad utilized VA benefits to pay for college, but he had no idea he qualified for more as he aged.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers copious benefits to support the more than 18.2 million veterans ages 65+ who served during wartime (i.e., World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War).
These benefits for older vets include disability compensation, health care, and burial (all worth checking out), but in this article, we’re focusing on the kind of monthly compensation my dad qualified for, VA Aid and Attendance benefits (A&A).
While applying for this benefit seems like it should be simple, according to the senior benefits specialist I worked with, it’s more complicated than it looks. (Hence the 76% denial rate!) Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) governs the VA, and it’s dense and filled with contradictions, making it tricky to ensure your claim will be approved.
So, it’s best to get expert help from someone who focuses on pensions and specifically A&A/Housebound benefits (vs. a VA benefits generalist).
But before we discuss how to recruit the help you need, let’s review the qualifications necessary to receive an A&A benefit or a Housebound allowance.
Does Your Parent Qualify?
Here are the basic criteria for a veteran aged 65+ to qualify for a pension with an A&A benefit or Housebound allowance:
- They must have been on active duty for at least 90 days (at home or abroad) and honorably discharged with at least one day of service during wartime.
- The vet’s income and net worth meet a limit set by Congress (currently around the $150,000 mark; a good benefit specialist may be able to offer options, however).
- At least one of the following is true: the vet has a disability, lives in long-term care because of a disability, or gets Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.
Even if you’re not sure your parent meets these criteria, it’s well worth having a conversation with a qualified VA pensions specialist. Which brings us to…
Assembling Your Troops
Notice I said your troops. The senior benefits specialist we worked with emphasized how important it is for adult children to help their parent(s) through the application process to make it faster and easier. That means you’re in command.
There are three official types of professionals you might work with in the pension process:
- A Veterans Service Officer (VSO) paid by the county and trained by the VA
- A VA-accredited attorney
- A VA-accredited claims agent
Remember I mentioned that 76% of applications get denied? That’s because some requirements, particularly the net worth criteria, might seem disqualifying at first glance. It takes someone with a deep understanding of Title 38 and experience being creative and compliant to help ensure your parent’s application is approval-ready.
To find expert help (which may include a specialist who has VA-accredited people on their team), you have to do your due diligence:
- Ask the admissions director at your parent’s facility for a referral to someone who has helped other veterans with their pension benefits.
- Ask the social worker for a referral if your parent is leaving a hospital or rehab.
- Talk to friends who have helped their folks get a VA pension that helps with their in-home or residential care costs.
- Check out organizations online; an individual or a small organization with rave reviews might be a good option (but always check references).
Important: You can’t hide heaps of your parent’s money in your accounts (or anyone else’s) and think that will satisfy the financial requirements. The government will sniff that out. Don’t work with anyone who tells you otherwise.
Keys to Winning the Battle
Here are a few additional tips as you go through the process:
Watch for bad actors: Like so many other scams aimed at older people, there are plenty of crooked VA “specialists” out there. Don’t let your parent sign anything or give away sensitive financial information to someone you haven’t vetted. And read everything thoroughly!
Be patient: The bad news is that the government may take up to six months to approve the application. The good news is that once it’s approved, your parent will get their benefits payment from when the application was received, not approved — which may mean a significant check. (The current monthly pension with A&A benefits for a single vet in 2023 is $2,229.)
If the application is denied: Read the entire letter! Don’t stop at the first paragraph, which tells you the verdict. Read all the way through to see what’s needed to resubmit the claim. Then, find someone with expertise in this area.
While putting together the paperwork for the claim was time-consuming and intense at times, I’m grateful my dad enlisted my help in getting his monthly A&A benefit.
My father never wanted to be a burden to his kids. The monthly check from Uncle Sam helps see to that. But the peace of mind we have from knowing that dad’s VA pension benefits are for life is invaluable – and well worth fighting for.
- Eligibility for Veterans Pensions (VA)
- VA Pension Rates for Veterans (VA)
- VA Survivors Pension (VA)
- Complete Guide for Veteran Seniors
- DAV Benefits Claim Assistance (Disabled American Veterans) — free expert help for VA benefit claims (and many other vet challenges) from one of the nation’s oldest and most effective advocacy organizations.
Trudi Roth helps individuals and organizations express themselves authentically through words, actions, and lifestyle choices. When she’s not hanging with her dad at his fabulous assisted living digs, you can find her at Further.net, It’s the TruStory, or The Shakti Sisters.
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