“Ice Buckets” for Veterans

Veterans Twice as Likely to get ALS

Joseph, a military veteran, noticed that he was experiencing tingling and numbness in his limbs. It didn’t take long before it progressed to difficulty walking, poor hand coordination, stumbling, and an increasingly limited range of motion. Joseph was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease because of the baseball player who made it famous.

Like Joseph, an estimated 30,000 Americans (including 2,000 veterans) live with ALS today. ALS attacks the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord responsible for controlling muscle movement, slowly paralyzing patients over time.  As the disease progresses, patients start to need assistance walking, most needing a wheelchair for mobility. Eventually, patients need help with activities of daily living, including using the bathroom, eating, and bathing. Many patients wind up on ventilators because they are no longer able to breathe independently, with pneumonia and other lung infections being a common cause of death as their immune systems decline and their limited mobility makes it challenging to fight off infections. The exact cause of ALS is not understood and there is no cure or treatment that stops or reverses the disease. Life expectancy is typically two to five years from the time of diagnosis.

Harvard University studies funded by the Defense Department and the National Institutes of Health found that military veterans were twice as likely as the general population to develop ALS. Based on these studies and other research, the Veterans Administration has recognized that there’s a clear link between ALS and military service, making veterans with ALS eligible for comprehensive assistance from the VA.

Recently, hundreds of celebrities such as Bill Gates, Stephen Colbert, Martha Stewart, Mark Zuckerberg, and Paul McCartney have been posting online videos of themselves and appearing on TV dumping buckets of ice over their heads in the name of charity. The viral “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which has recently dominated social media, has now raised more than $80 million and increased awareness for ALS (which only half of Americans knew existed a month ago.)

Speaking of awareness, many veterans and their families are unaware that laws have been passed to entitle them to an underused benefit — a Special Pension often called Veteran’s Aid and Attendance. And, in most cases, these veterans with ALS and other conditions, who need help with activities of daily living, could really use the assistance.

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. Applying for Veteran’s Aid and Attendance is a confusing and arduous process.

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.  Call us at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.

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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.

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