Very important information for Veterans.
The New Old Age – Caring and Coping
September 19, 2012, 6:42 am
A Little-Known Benefit for Aging Veterans
By SUSAN SELIGER
Here’s a riddle: When is a government benefit that pays for
caregivers, assisted living and a nursing home not a benefit?
When hardly any people know they’re entitled to it.
That seems to be the story with a Department of Veterans Affairs
benefit called the Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improved
Pension benefit, known as A&A, which can cover the costs of
caregivers in the home (including sons and daughters who are paid
to be caregivers, though not spouses) or be used for assisted
living or a nursing home.
The benefit is not insignificant: up to $2,019 monthly for a
veteran and spouse, and up to $1,094 for the widow of a veteran.
Surprised that you’ve never heard of it? You’re not alone.
“It’s probably one of the lesser-known benefits,” said Randal
Noller, a Veterans Affairs spokesman in Washington. Of the 1.7
million World War II veterans alive as of 2011, who were in need
of caregiving assistance and thus eligible, only 38,076 veterans
and 38,685 surviving spouses were granted the A&A benefit that
year, according to Mr. Noller.
Mr. Noller is not the first to acknowledge A&A is a well-kept
secret. Jim Nicholson, former secretary of Veterans Affairs, said
in a December 2006 news release that “not everyone is aware of
his or her potential eligibility” for the program, which he
called an “underused” benefit.
Not much has changed. A search of the Veterans Affairs Web site
for evidence of public information efforts in the six years since
came up blank.
“The sad thing is, it’s been an entitlement for 61 years, but
it’s sat idle – the V.A. employees just haven’t been educated
about it,” said Debbie Burak of Midlothian, Va. She said she
repeatedly called department 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.
(Indeed, when I called two Baltimore-area Veterans Affairs
offices for my father, a World War II veteran, no one had heard
of this benefit or any benefit that paid for caregivers or
assisted living or nursing homes.)
“My parents’ end of life was so difficult. They lost everything,
were living in a terrible hotel, ran up every credit card we
had,” Ms. Burak said. “My mother begged us not to cremate her,
but there was no money for a burial; we had no choice.”
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 the Aid and Attendance benefit. She applied,
but no money arrived before her mother died.
Mr. Noller said the program’s low visibility might be an effect
of the size of the department. “The V.A. 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
To bridge the information gap, Ms. Burak introduced
VeteranAid.org, a Web site and a 501(c)(3) charity, in 2005, to
provide information about A&A eligibility and how to apply.
To qualify, a veteran need not have suffered a service-related
injury. He or she only had to have clocked at least one day of
his or her 90-day minimum military service during a time of war
and need caregiving for activities of daily living.
Applying can be confusing and arduous. If you know the program’s
name and search the Veterans Affairs Web site for Aid and
Attendance, the first page states, among other things, that you
are not eligible for A&A unless you already qualify for a basic
Veterans Affairs pension – for which you have to be “totally
That’s more than a little misleading.
“What people don’t know is that when wartime veterans turn 65,
the V.A. automatically classifies them as `totally disabled,’ ”
Ms. Burak said. And if they meet income and asset criteria, they
are eligible for a basic pension.
The A&A benefit can be more than 50 percent higher than the basic
veteran’s pension ($24,239 annually for a veteran and spouse with
A&A, versus $16,051 for a basic pension). The income and asset
cutoffs are also higher than for A&A benefits.
Karen McCarty, of Fort Worth, is one of the lucky ones who
applied for A&A – and got it. She heard about it when the
assisted living facility where her father-in-law, Robert McCarty,
92, was living, held a seminar on it.
Ms. McCarty, a former certified public accountant, started
researching the application process at the Veterans Affairs site,
but, she said, “the VeteranAid.org site was much clearer.” She
found all the forms she needed, and her father-in-law received
the first check in record time – six months.
Not all Veterans Affairs officers are in the dark about A&A.
After Annette Cadena’s parents were in a car accident and moved
to a nursing home in their tiny hometown, Fossil, Ore., it was
the local Veterans Affairs officer, Paul Conroy (now retired),
who saw her on the street and mentioned that her parents might
“I was skeptical, to be honest,” said Ms. Cadena. “My husband did
two tours in Iraq and has worked 30 years for the Washington
State Army National Guard coordinating with the V.A. to help
veterans, and he had never heard of it.”
Still, she applied in August 2009, and nine months later her
parents started receiving the maximum $2,019 per month.
The benefit was a lifesaver. That is, until her father, Clinton
Ray, died on Aug. 5. The payments to her mother, Bessie Ray,
stopped, even though widows of veterans are also entitled to this
“They cut her off cold,” Ms. Cadena said, and told her she would
have to apply all over again as a widow, which could take 9 to 18
months. “My mother said, `Oh, my God, are they going to kick me
out of the home?'” Ms. Cadena recalled.
Still, when the benefit comes through, it can make a real
Marcia Hruska’s mother, 85, had run through all her savings after
seven years of worsening Alzheimer’s and round-the-clock care in
her apartment in Coconut Creek, Fla. Assisted living was the next
step, but Ms. Hruska didn’t know how they would pay for it, with
Social Security her only income.
“One of the assisted living facilities we visited asked if my dad
had been in the service,” and mentioned A&A, Ms. Hruska recalled.
So she filled out the 26-page Veterans Affairs application –
which used to be only four pages – and on Sept. 1, six months
after applying, she received the first monthly check for $1,019.
“This relieves a lot of tension,” Ms. Hruska said.
One warning note: Scams abound. The department forbids anyone to
charge to help veterans fill out these challenging forms, yet a
growing number of companies – many of which, on a Web search for
“Aid and Attendance,” pop up with waving flags and red-white-
and-blue banners – offer to “help” veterans fill out the forms
free, then charge thousands of dollars for financial
And, Ms. Burak warns: “Financial planners at assisted living
facilities are putting on seminars about the A&A benefit – but it
isn’t out of the goodness of their hearts. They are trolling for
residents who have too much money to qualify, to get them to move
assets into annuity products that don’t count as income or assets
and yield big commissions.” (This is possible because, unlike
Medicaid, with its five-year lookback, Veterans Affairs has no
lookback on asset transfers.)
The department does not reveal maximum allowable assets. But
$80,000 (the house and a car are exempt from this total) seems to
be in the ballpark, though someone with more assets could still
qualify if expenses were very high, according to Ms. Burak.
Income limits are not set in stone either. But the maximum is
around $20,000 to $23,000 after deducting costs for medical
expenses, caregivers, assisted living or nursing home fees.
Some people are taking advantage of A&A to protect assets for
their heirs, Ms. McCarty said. Still, she said,”it’s a wonderful
Equipment Upgrade at Houston VA Outpatient Pharmacy
The Outpatient Pharmacy at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston will be undergoing a major equipment upgrade Thursday, September 27 through Monday, October 1. During this upgrade, the Outpatient Pharmacy window dispensing will be limited to urgent and critical medications. Lengthy (3 to 4 hour) wait times are expected while prescriptions are manually filled. For more information, contact Pharmacy Service at 713-794-7119.
For alternative ways to get refills, visit http://www.houston.va.gov/services/pharmacy.asp.
The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center hosts a free Wellness Fair along with short informational seminars to highlight the critical message that ?Mental Health is Good Medicine? and attempt to diminish the stigma attached to mental illness.
The Wellness Fair takes place on October 12, 9 a.m. ? noon, and features information booth, giveaways, on-site experts, free kolaches and coffee, and more. Beginning at 1 p.m., various subject matter experts will present short, 30-minute presentations followed by question and answer sessions. Participants may also enjoy free ice cream.
Mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.) are widespread and often misunderstood. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2005, there were an estimated 24.6 million adults aged 18 or older who experienced serious psychological distress (SPD), which is highly correlated with serious mental illness. Among 18-25 year olds, the prevalence of SPD is high (18.6% for 18-25 year olds vs. 11.3% for all adults 18+); yet, this age group shows the lowest rate of help-seeking behaviors. Additionally, those with mental health conditions in this segment have a high potential to minimize future disability and pursue recovery if social acceptance is broadened and they receive the right support and services early on.
Mental health recovery is a journey of healing and transformation enabling a person with a mental health problem to live a meaningful life in a community of his or her choice while striving to achieve his or her full potential. In order to support the rehabilitation and recovery of every Veteran with a mental illness, VA has identified recovery as a guiding principle for its entire mental health service delivery system. Recovery involves developing hope, self-direction, empowerment, respect, and peer support.
The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center provides specialty inpatient programs at its main facility and mental health services at its many outpatient clinics. In addition, readjustment counseling services are available for Veterans and their families at Vet Centers across the nation.
For more information about VA mental health programs and services, visit http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/gethelp.asp or call the 24/7 Telecare Hotline at 713-794-8985 or toll-free 1-800-639-5137. For more information about the Wellness Fair, call Gary Brown at 713-791-1414, ext. 6313.
2012 10 – Mental Health Fair.pdf
Brigadier General Joseph S. Stringham, US Army (Ret.) is the new national
chairman for SOS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 09-13-12
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Alex Rosenwald 202.558.6640 firstname.lastname@example.org_
La Crosse, WI – Special Operations Speaks announced the appointment of Joe
Stringham B.G. (RET) as national chairman of their effort to stop the
national security leaks that have so dominated the current Administration.
One of the organization’s founders, Dick Brauer, Col. (RET) U. S. Air
Force said, “We are honored to have a real life American hero to lead us in
our efforts to support our troops by stopping these breaches of national
security. The General understands full well what harm can come from betraying
our allies, friends and agents who have taken the risk of trying to help us
stop terrorists who mean us harm.”
Go here: http://www.eaglelakeveteransmuseum.com/
On the home page scroll down and you will see the announcement with instructions as to how to RSVP.
Okay, I got it. We will be there
Rate Increase – Montgomery GI Bill Now Worth up to $56,304
Effective 1 October 2012, the full-time monthly GI Bill rate will increase 6% to $1,564.
Now is the time to use the GI Bill. Find schools with VA-approved programs that may:
Give Credit for Military Experience with ACE Credits Allow You to Test Out of Classes with CLEP Offer Online Courses with Flexible Class Times
Use the GI Bill to get up to $56,304 toward paying for your Degree
Find Schools with VA-approved Programs
Don’t forget the annual membership meeting on October 4th, 2012 at the Texas Seafood and Steakhouse. Free burgers and beer. Cash door prizes. No entry fee. If you’re an Eagle Lake Military Veteran you’re invited. Bring your spouse or best (human) friend.
You must RSVP so we can get a head count. Deadline is September 28th. You can RSVP here or call one of the numbers on the flyer on the Veteran’s Museum web page.
How do we RSVP?
Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:
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