By Suzy Lundquist, Vice President/CEO Agape Home Care
Standing beside hundreds of veterans at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C., it’s impossible to imagine them as the young men and women they would have been some 70 years earlier when they entered the armed forces to defend our country. Here they are now–a lifetime later–mostly using canes, walkers or wheelchairs to see how the United States honors their service.
They fought in Asia and the Pacific while their successors fought in Korea, Vietnam and in other locations throughout the world. Upon returning home, they started their busy post-war/post-conflict lives without needing much in the way of healthcare assistance if they were lucky.
As the years pass, those healthcare needs change for many veterans who thanks to Congress may be able to access additional financial resources through the Aid and Attendance Benefit offered by the Veterans Administration. Often these veterans need an advocate to help them fight the battle of getting this money that can be too confusing and difficult for someone who is sick, frail or suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. That advocate can be a family member or friend who has legal and medical power of attorney. A veteran or their spouse may qualify for Aid and Attendance if they live in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity including severely limited vision or live at home but are bedridden or housebound and need assistance with daily living activities.
First, you need a certified copy of their military service record. Since most people don’t have this document in their home, you will need to complete an SF 180 form that includes dates, branch of service, a signature of the veteran and legal guardian requesting the record. Or if the veteran is deceased and the surviving, unmarried spouse needs the record, their signature. In either case, you need to submit additional proof: If the veteran has died, proof of death. If you’re the legal guardian: the legal papers authorizing your appointment. The SF 180 form is available online through the National Archives and Records Administration. The address where you return the completed form depends on the branch of the service and is specified on the form. It can take over a month to get the certified copy of the military records once you’ve submitted the form.
Next you need to complete a VA Form 21-527EZ application for Pension to submit in a packet along with your claim and all relevant, private, medical treatment records. The primary care physician completes an assessment along with diagnosis. The list of medications is also necessary. If the veteran is in a long-term care facility, the nursing care notes and assessments done there should also be submitted. Proof of pension and other financial resources including savings must be a part of the packet as well as proof of the monthly amount needed to provide care for the veteran or their surviving spouse. Bank statements and the previous year’s IRS filing should also be included.
Setting up a meeting to give a copy of the compiled information to a case worker liaison in your Congressman’s office and ask for their help, gives your veteran’s case the advantage of ongoing monitoring by a knowledgeable facilitator who regularly works with government agencies and keeps your veteran’s case moving along. You still may get calls requesting additional information by the Veterans Administration. And before the veteran is approved for benefits, a Veterans Administration Field Agent will call to set a meeting with you and the veteran as well as the assisted living facility director (if they live in a facility) to interview you and ask additional questions.
The whole process can take several months after you submit the original package of information. In some cases, the veteran may also be approved for a retroactive amount. If so, that amount will be sent in a separate check to be deposited in a separate account and used only for a list of approved expenses for the veteran or surviving spouse.
While the whole process can seem a bit arduous, it can make the difference between getting the health care so many veterans need and cannot afford and honors their service in a tangible way for the rest of their lives.