Veterans: Don’t Miss Out On Benefits

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Q. My 72-year old father, Phil, served during the Vietnam War, and suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My mother, Ruth, is his caregiver. They live on Social Security checks and his pension. In my opinion, there have to be more benefits that they can take advantage of, especially for an honorably-discharged retired veteran and his spouse. If I am correct, can you help me lead them in the right direction about benefits they may be missing out on? Thank you for your help!

A. Yes, you are correct. Currently, there are more than 25 million veterans, like your father, who served our country during wartime and may be eligible for some form of veteran’s benefits. However, many veterans aren’t aware of, or taking advantage of, the benefits available to them and their spouses.

In fact, NPR (along with seven public radio stations around the country) recently chronicled the lives of America’s retired military and released a three-part series about veterans benefits. The project, “Back at Base,” examines how many veterans and their families are missing out on the benefits for which they are entitled because they don’t know about them or do not understand them. The story offers ways to navigate the complex processes involved in applying for benefits.

As in the NPR story, at the Farr Law Firm, our goal is to provide information about programs that veterans and their families may be entitled to. Below are some examples:

Medical Benefits

The VA operates the nation’s largest healthcare system, with more than 1700 hospitals and clinics, caring for more than 6.3 million veterans annually. Those who qualify based on household income and assets receive free care. Others use their VA benefits to supplement private health insurance and cover co-payments required with private policies.

In recent years, mental health benefits for veterans have been expanded. While the system is not perfect, the VA does provide a significant healthcare benefit that should not be overlooked.

Veteran’s Aid and Attendance

One particular benefit, called a Special Pension benefit (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. (Please visit our website to see the newly released 2015 figures.)

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.

Burial and Memorial Benefits

The Veterans Administration offers a number of burial and memorial benefits to veterans who were honorably discharged, as follows:

  • National and State Cemetery Benefits: Eligible veterans can be buried in one of the 131 national or 93 state VA cemeteries at no cost to the family. This includes a gravesite; opening and closing of the grave; perpetual gravesite care; a government headstone or marker; a United States burial flag that can be used to drape the casket or accompany the urn (after the funeral service, the flag is given to the next-of-kin as a keepsake); and a Presidential memorial certificate, which is an engraved paper certificate signed by the current President expressing the country’s grateful recognition of the veteran’s service. National cemetery burial benefits are also available to spouses and dependents of veterans.
  • Private Cemetery Benefits: Benefits available include a free government headstone or marker, or a medallion that can be affixed to an existing privately purchased headstone or marker; a burial flag; and a Presidential memorial certificate. There are no benefits offered to spouses and dependents that are buried in private cemeteries.
  • Burial Allowances: In addition to the many burial benefits, some veterans may also qualify for a $734 burial and funeral expense allowance (if hospitalized by VA at time of death), or $300 (if not hospitalized by VA at time of death), and a $734 plot-interment allowance to those who choose to be buried in a private cemetery. To learn more about eligibility, see benefits.va.gov/benefits/factsheets/burials/burial.pdf.

Certain forms may need to be completed which are always better to be done in advance. For a complete rundown of burial and memorial benefits, eligibility details and required forms, visit www.cem.va.gov or call 800-827-1000.

Applying for veteran’s benefits, such as 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. Please call us in Fairfax at 703-691-1888, in Fredericksburg at 540-479-1435, in Rockville, MD at 301-519-8041, or in Washington, DC at 202-587-2797 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

P.S. Another benefit of being a veteran is a 15% discount off all services at the Farr Law Firm. We hope to see your family soon!

 

 

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