[Md-sligo] FW: Little-known benefit can give veterans a late-in-life boost
Yasmin.Reyazuddin at montgomerycountymd.gov
Fri Apr 22 08:04:25 CDT 2011
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Little-known- benefit can give veterans a late-in-life boost
By Leslie Tamura, Tuesday, April 19,12:42 AM
A former nurse and the widow of a World War II vet-eran, Dorothy
Jablonski, 84, had been living off her husband's pension, her own Social
Security and the proceeds from the sale of her house. But as her nest
egg shrank, Jablonski's sons had no idea how she would continue paying
her monthly bill of about $6,000 at one of the Sunrise senior living
communities in Maryland.
After talking with staff at Sunrise, a McLean-based company with about
300 assisted living facilities nationwide, Dan Jablonski learned that
his mom might be eligible for a little-known benefit called Aid and
Attendance <http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/pension/vetpen.htm#7> (A&A).
A need-based, tax-free pension, A&A supports wartime veterans and their
spouses who cannot pay for non-service-related medical needs. (Veterans
with service-connected disabilities get compensation through a separate
program operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs)
About 182,000 veterans and their spouses take advantage of the A&A
benefit, which has been around since World War I, but VA officials say
that many more are eligible.
"We know that we're only hitting about one in four eligible veterans,"
said Tom Pamperin, the VA's deputy undersecretary for disability
assistance. "There are a lot of veterans where it's been 40 years or
more since they've been on active duty. It just doesn't occur to them
there may be a benefit from the VA."
Beneficiaries must be at least 65 years old. They are veterans or
married to veterans who served during a wartime period
<http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/pension/wartime.htm> - eligibility
includes the Vietnam War era and the Gulf War of 1990 - and were
honorably discharged; they do not have to have seen combat.
Applicants must also need help with at least one activity of daily
living: dressing, eating, walking, bathing, adjusting prosthetic devices
or using the toilet. Those who are blind, living in nursing homes or
require in-home care may also be eligible.
Married veterans can receive as much as $1,949 per month. Single
veterans could get a monthly A&A check for $1,644. A veteran's surviving
spouse could receive a maximum of $1,056. Though a beneficiary's other
income and benefits might reduce the amount of the pension, Pamperin
said most people get the maximum.
Single veterans must make less than $19,736 annually. A married
veteran's income must be less than $23,396. Dorothy Jablon-ski's annual
income fell beneath the A&A $12,861 limit for a surviving spouse.
Within a year of submitting the forms (21-534
<http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-534-ARE.pdf> , DD-214
<http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/> ) required
by the VA, she began receiving the maximum A&A benefit.
"It makes a difference," said Dan Jablonski, a Johns Hopkins University
physicist from Bethesda, "so there is no financial component for my
mother's end-of-life decisions."
While grateful, Dan Jablonski added that without the guidance of a
lawyer - half of whose fee was paid by Sunrise - "[the application]
would have probably crashed and burned and not gotten anywhere."
It's not a simple process. A&A applicants must mail the forms, copies of
service records <http://www.archives.gov/veterans/evetrecs/index.html> ,
marriage certificates, proof of insurance and medical records to the
regional VA office <http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/ro/rocontacts.htm> . If
a third party is making the application, an additional form, 21-22-a or
21-0845, <http://www.va.gov/OGC/docs/Accred/21-22a.pdf> must be
"It's a difficult, challenging, bureaucratic system," said Debbie Burak,
59, of Midlothian, Va. After applying on behalf of her mother, Burak
established VeteranAid.org <http://www.veteranaid.org> to help others
navigate the process.
Once a pension is granted, the VA provides a lump-sum payment to cover
the benefit retroactively from when the application was filed. The
average wait is 90 days, according to Pamperin.
"We're increasing output," Pamperin said, "but for the last couple of
years, it still hasn't been able to match the incoming claims." In 2009,
the program paid out almost $2 billion.
Prospective applicants can get information from veterans organization
<http://www4.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp> such as the
American Legion, and they can call the VA at 800-827-1000.
Dorothy Jablonski now uses A&A as supplemental income to help pay for
her long-term care.
"By joining the Navy during World War II," Dan Jablonski said, "one can
make the case that my father traded his risk of being in the military
during a war against the needs that my mother would have over half a
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