Monday, April 13, 2009

Answers to Most Common Questions from VA Benefit Post

I’ve been receiving many questions from my last post, so I am going to attempt to answer the most common questions. If you have others, please contact me directly.

Q: What exactly is this pension and who qualifies?

A: Here are the mandatory qualifications for what is known as the Veterans Improved Pension Benefit. This is a non-service connected pension benefit with additional add-ons of “housebound” and “aid and attendance” benefits available to a veteran or their widow(er) who requires the assistance of another person in order to avoid the hazards of his or her daily environment. This is not to be confused with a service related disability pension which falls under a different program. The veteran must also have:
a. 90 days of consecutive active duty service, one of which was during wartime.
b. Any discharge other then a dishonorable discharge
c. Be 100% disabled or at least age 65
d. There are income and asset limitations which can be discussed individually

Q: How do I know if I qualify?

A: Go to and fill out the qualification form. It comes directly to me and no one else and I can contact you to discuss your qualification.

Q: I already applied and was turned down. What can I do now?

A: Once you have submitted the application, and if it was done incorrectly or lacking the proper documentation, it is pretty difficult to overturn the decision. This is why it is crucial to do everything right before the initial submittal.

Q: I have a Veteran’s Service Officer helping me. Do they perform the same service you are providing?

A: The Veteran’s Service Officer at the local VFW or American Legion is trained to fill out the paperwork for submittal. They are not trained or able to offer suggestions of what options you have to be in a position to qualify at a later date, and may tell you that you do not currently qualify and to come back once your income or assets have been depleted. It makes their job easier if everything is in order so they can review the application prior to submittal and make sure everything is in order for processing. Since you only get one first shot at success, it pays to have all your ducks in a row so you are approved on the first go around. Since neither myself nor the VA Service officer charge for this service, why not cover all your bases for optimum success? We both want you to qualify to receive the benefit you have earned.

Q: How long does it take to qualify and begin receiving the benefit?

A: The VA can take 4-6 months to approve the benefit, just due to backlog and understaffing. However, the benefit is retroactive to the 1st of the month following application receipt, so the sooner the better as far as applying. If assets need to be transferred, this may take additional time depending on the individual situation.

Q: Do you have to be “poor” to qualify?

A: No. To get only the basic pension without any need of medical assistance, such as driving, taking medication, walking, bathing, etc, you do have to have a very low income and this may not be the right time to apply. Once you start needing ongoing care, the medical bills can be substantial, and this is when the program can really help defray the costs of home care, assisted living, or nursing care. This is the true value of this benefit.

Q: Is this applicable to the spouse of a veteran?

A: Although the aid and attendance benefit is for the veteran or the widow(er) of the veteran, it still may assist the couple when either needs care. This is because both the husband and wife’s income counts towards qualification, so do the medical costs of both the husband and wife count towards qualification.

Q: If a widow(er) of a veteran remarries, do they still qualify for the benefit?

A: No. The VA only counts the most recent marriage for the widow(er).

Q: Does care provided in the home count for qualification?

A: Yes, see me for details.

Q: What if a child is caring for the veteran at home?

A: The care does not have to be provided by a licensed care giver as in long term care policies. See me for details.

Q: Can a veteran get both a service related pension benefit and a non-service related benefit?

A: Not both at the same time. Whichever pays the higher amount would be the one to go with.

Q: Does this amount stay the same year after year?

A: The amounts are increased annually. You must also re-qualify each year, which is pretty straight forward unless you receive additional income or no longer need assistance.

The bottom line is if you know of someone who may qualify, it is worth it to check it out. With the rising cost of health care, the increase in life expectancy and the risk of outliving income and savings, every penny counts and this benefit is free of dreaded TAXES!

Paula Straub
888-338-3036 toll free