Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Help Aging Parents: Possible Benefits for WWII Veterans and Spouses

Memorial Day weekend is behind us. Yet old and young veterans, their wives and their widows remain.
They may be parents or grandparents; may have aged well--or not. While veteran's benefits are widely discussed, widows of WWII veterans are more likely to have outlived their husbands and the benefits discussed below (which are under-used), may have never entered anyone's mind.
When these older and elderly parents still live at home and have serious health issues, adult children know only too well how much is required to help them remain at home. Family and friends may be giving them the help that they need even when assisted living or a nursing home would be more appropriate, but not doable for various reasons.
Possible Help From the Department of Veteran's Affairs
The Department of Veteran's Affair's "Aid and Attendance Pension Program" may help aging parents with certain health issues to remain in their home (and help their adult care-giving children as well).  Or, may help with assisted living or other living situation's expenses. While my posts focus on relatively healthy, independent-living, aging parents, I'm taking changing the focus a bit here based on a longtime friend's recent experience with her elderly mother.
Her elderly mother (a WWII veteran's widow) has lived in an apartment attached to my friend and her husband's home for decades. An intelligent, interesting, involved and independent widow, these qualities helped her age well until her macular degeneration progressed to the point where she is legally blind in both eyes at age 90+. She now needs additional help to remain in her apartment.
My friend is smart; enlisted the help of a social worker and learned, among other things, about available services. The "Aid and Attendance Pension Program" is one. The following are general guidelines for eligibility:
*One must be a veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran--the latter married to the veteran at the time of death.
*The veteran must have served 90 days of continuous service--one day being during time of war.
*The person must have medical need, that won't improve, and affects some acts of daily living (ADL) to the point that help is required.
*the person needs to live in a "protected environment" (could be own home) for his/her own safety (think dementia or stroke)
*the person is legally blind in both eyes.
The key is to have the maximum monthly pension offset all of the veteran's monthly income with qualifying medical expenses. Those "qualifying expenses" can include caregiver expenses for caregivers who come in to help, as well as for adult child/children if they do the care-giving. (In the latter case children must be paid like a regular employee based on what's reasonable.)
The Next Step
Dealing with any governmental agency takes time and we know if we are busy trying to keep our parents afloat, we may not be able to stretch the 24-hour-day enough to find that time. Knowing that there's a law practice with professionals who specialize in veteran's benefits may be useful, so I'm including a link. I do not endorse nor am I qualified to endorse. But my smart friend is using it to help get through the paper work. Communicating directly with the Department of Veteran's Affairs and reading the website is, of course, always a first step that costs nothing but time.
For annotated, additional sites and links click Sept. 22, 2010 post. 

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