Honoring Our Veterans: An Underused Benefit

Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday where we take time to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. The holiday, which is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May, was formerly known as “Decoration Day” and originated after the American Civil War.

On Memorial Day and every day, we honor military veterans and the sacrifices they have made and are making to preserve our liberty and freedom. Currently, there are more than 25 million veterans who served our country during wartime and are eligible for some form of veteran’s benefits. One particular benefit, called a Special Pension benefit (sometimes also called Veterans Aid and Attendance), can provide more than $25,000 annually for an eligible married veteran, more than $21,000 annually for a single veteran, and over $13,000 annually for the surviving spouse of a qualified veteran.

Unfortunately, many veterans and their families are unaware that laws have been passed to entitle them to this Special Pension. As an example, according to her story told on this video and cited in a recent New York Times article, Debbie Burak of Midlothian, Virginia, repeatedly called the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offices on behalf of her father, a World War II veteran, and her mother, who became homeless after their house caught fire and their injuries required extensive care. She was told there were no benefits they were entitled to. According to Burak, no one at the VA offices she called had heard of the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit or any benefit that paid for caregivers or assisted living or nursing homes. It was only after her father died that Ms. Burak discovered her parents would have been entitled to as much as $160,000 over the last decade through this Special Pension program.

Jim Nicholson, former secretary of Veterans Affairs, said in a news release that “not everyone is aware of his or her potential eligibility” for the program, which he called an “underused” benefit. Randal Noller, a spokesperson for the VA said the program’s low visibility might be an effect of the size of the department. “The VA is the second-largest agency in the federal government, and you can’t expect everybody to know everything,” he said, referring to the agency’s work force. He agrees that the Aid and Attendance benefit and other military benefits are largely underused. In fact, of the 1.7 million World War II veterans alive as of 2011 who were in need of caregiving assistance and thus most likely eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, only 38,076 veterans and 38,685 surviving spouses took advantage of the Aid and Attendance benefit that year, according to Noller.

If you are a veteran, a veteran’s spouse, or a family caregiver for a veteran, you need to know about the Aid and Attendance benefit, and we urge you to take advantage of this benefit. Eligibility criteria includes:

  • Those over 65 do not have to be disabled. However, the veteran or spouse must be in need of regular aid and attendance due to inability to dress oneself, feed oneself, loss of coordination or other conditions, as described on our website, and there must be actual ongoing caregiving services being received from someone else.
  • You or your spouse must have served on active duty for at least 90 days, at least one day of which occurred during a period designated as wartime (see our website). There must have been a non-dishonorable discharge as well. Single surviving spouses of such veterans are also eligible.

For more details about Veteran’s Aid and Attendance and other veterans’ benefits, please watch this video. If you would like to sign up to receive my Aid & Attendance 4-Part Mini Series via e-mail, please click here.

Applying for Veteran’s Aid and Attendance can be confusing and arduous. Here at the Farr Law Firm, we work with veterans and their spouses to evaluate whether they qualify for the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit and/or Medicaid, and we deal with all the paperwork. As an Accredited Attorney with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, I understand both the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit and the Medicaid program and the interaction between both benefit programs.  Learn more at and call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.

Thank you for serving our country and best wishes to all for a happy and healthy Memorial Day weekend!

P.S. Another benefit of being a veteran is a 15% discount off all services at the Farr Law Firm. Again, thank you, and we hope to see you soon.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.