Veterans’ Salute: Aid and Attendance Benefits

By Guest Contributor June 15, 2008 15:54

By Frank Smart

Frank Smart

Elderly veterans and their families should be aware that there may be Veterans Administration (VA) benefits available to those veterans who are hospitalized or housebound.

These benefits come in the form of monetary compensation, psychiatric counseling and other services. The majority of benefits are for those veterans, male or female, who served during wartime or who served in a combat zone.

Most VA benefits are available to those veterans who are designated “service connected’ by the local Veterans Service Office (VSO). The veteran must file a claim and undergo an exam by VA healthcare professionals.

A medical determination by veteran’s personal physician can sometimes be used in substantiating a claim, but the physician’s diagnosis alone usually cannot be used to award benefits.

Locally, the best source for information and help is the Tuolumne County Veterans Service office at 533-6280 (see separate story).

One benefit that former service members may not be aware of is called Aid and Attendance (A&A). This is available to qualified veterans who are:

  • in need of regular aid and attendance if he or she is a patient in a nursing home
  • helpless or blind, or so nearly helpless or blind as to need and require the regular aid and attendance of another person

In determining the need for regular A&A, the VA will consider if the veteran is unable to dress, bathe or feed himself or herself, or attend to their sanitary needs. The VA also considers the veteran’s ability to walk in or out of their home unattended, or protect themselves from hazards or danger incident to the daily environment, etc. as the result of mental or physical disabilities. According to VA regulations, “total blindness” and “bedridden” will be a proper basis for an award.

Not all these conditions must exist for benefits to be awarded.

There are other A&A qualifications, which will be determined upon examinations by VA healthcare personnel. Again, the VSO is the place to get this information.

Another veterans’ benefit is called Housebound.  The regulation concerning this program reads as follows:

  • “A veteran will qualify for the housebound rate is he or she has a single disability rated as permanently 100% disabling and (a) has additional disabilities rated 60% or more or, b) is permanently housebound but does not qualify for aid and attendance.”
  • It goes on to note: “A veteran will be considered ‘permanently housebound’ when he or she is substantially confined to the house (ward or clinical areas, if hospitalized) or immediate premises due to the disability which it is reasonably certain will remain throughout his or her lifetime.”

Over the years many veterans have been reluctant to approach the VA for help after their military service because they did not think they were eligible, or were told erroneously that they were not eligible for any benefits. This is especially true for women veterans.

Some veterans just didn’t want to get involved with government bureaucracy and red tape.

But the reality is that World War II veterans are, on average, in their 80s and 90s, and the Korean War veterans are in their mid- to late- 70s and 80s. Many are receiving or need geriatric care. Most are on Medicare, which often does not cover many of these expenses.

This gray area – what is needed, versus what is covered – is where the Veterans Administration can fill in.

Getting information to these veterans is often a problem, as many are incapable of asking for help or unaware of what is available. This is where their families come into play.

The children of these World War II and Korean War veterans are the Baby Boomer generation. This generation is also often called the “Caretaker Generation” because the job of taking care of one’s parents is becoming more and more the norm in our society.

Many Boomers are caring for their underinsured or financially destitute parents.

Before contacting the VA, gather all pertinent documents relating to the veteran’s service, including discharge papers and any military medical records. These documents will be essential when applying for assistance. Without the proper qualifying paperwork, the VSO will have to send for the documents, delaying the claim.

Our veterans are a national treasure and an invaluable resource.

They have earned our admiration and our respect.

Now in their waning years, every resource available should be brought to bear for these men and women, to make their final years comfortable, happy and dignified.

— Frank Smart is a Vietnam veteran who served as a combat reporter in the U.S. Army’s First Cavalry Division.

Copyright © 2008, Friends and Neighbors Magazine

By Guest Contributor June 15, 2008 15:54
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