My husband & I were managers at an independent retirement community and during that time I helped several people apply for and get something that is informally called Aid and Attendance.
If you have never heard of this program, it is a benefit for any Veteran who qualifies. The veteran gets a check each month and you can use it for anything they need.
Now, there are certain qualifications and a lot of paperwork but it is worth it. Most veteran's can get up to about $1500 a month. A surviving spouse of a Veteran can get about $1000 a month. Most people don't know about this benefit and there is not a lot of information on how to apply.
We applied for my father-in-law and we should find out in a few weeks when his first check is coming.
Veteran's living at home, in nursing homes, in assisted living and in independent (as long as they have a emergency call system, meals, transportation and housekeeping) living can qualify. Veteran's spouses also can qualify if the spouse is alive or passed away.
This LINK has some great information which I will condense into this post.
1. The Veteran must have served in any branch of the military for 90 days, one of those days has to be during a war time period. This LINK has the dates of each war.
2. The Veteran needs their discharge papers and the discharge cannot be dishonorable. Discharge papers can be found on-line or at a local courthouse.
3. The Veteran must qualify medically. This means that a doctor will have to sign a paper saying the veteran needs help in their day-to-day life. This would include making meals, help with medication, housekeeping, dressing, bathing, etc. My husband takes care of my father-in-law's home and the grounds. I help with making meals and we have meals on wheels coming in three times a week. We also help him with laundry and go shopping for him. We take care of his finances and drive him to doctor's appointments. These things show that my father-in-law needs help in his daily life.
4. The Veteran must qualify financially. This means that the veteran would need less than $80,000 in assets. Assets do NOT include the car(s) and home. With this being said, the VA does not have a look back period. If the Veteran does have more than $80,000, check with an attorney to set up a trust or something else.
Okay...If you still have a Veteran or a surviving spouse of a Veteran that qualifies, there are ways to get the full benefit. You have to show that the Veteran pays more for medical than their income.
My father-in-law has a pension & gets social security. Let us say, for the sake of using an easy number, that he makes $2,000 a month. If we can show that all of that goes to his medical needs, we get the full benefit. If we can only show that $1,000 goes to medical needs, he will get the remainder of the benefit. So, if the benefit is $1,500 and we can only show that $1,000 goes to medical needs, he gets just $500 a month.
How do you show that 100% goes to medical needs? There are a lot of ways. All insurances get deducted as well as doctor's and hospital's bills. All prescription co-pays get deducted. These are the "easy" medical things to show on the paperwork. You can request a statement from the health insurance company with the co-pays to prove what your Veteran is spending on an average monthly basis.
What else? Well, if the Veteran needs help with their day-to-day life, you can deduct this as well. My father-in-law pays us every month to take care of these things for him. We are being paid to make his meals, drive him, take care of the house, etc. The VA will allow any family, friend or agency to be paid. Make sure you get a receipt book and keep track of the payments just in case the VA sends someone to check after you apply for Aid & Attendance.
Hopefully you have "zeroed" out the Veteran's income. This will give the Veteran full benefits.
HOW TO APPLY:
You will first need the VA forms. You can usually get the forms that will need filled out by stopping by any VA office or American Legion office. The office has valuable information and sometimes even offers to help fill out the forms. Google your Veteran's city, state and the words "VA office" or "American Legion" and you should be able to find the correct place. You can also find the forms at this LINK but I would recommend trying to find someone to answer questions you may have as you fill out the forms.
You will also need a bunch of records and documents. This LINK is a list of what you will need to collect.
We have also had success with contacting our local court house and they put us in touch with our county VA office. There is someone who was able to sit down with us and look at the forms. They also told us that since my father-in-law has Parkinson's and is elderly that they would put a note to expedite the case.
Try to get the forms in as soon as possible. Your Veteran will be paid from the date of application. So, if you apply in December, 2012 and the case doesn't get approved until May 2013, you will get back pay (usually in a lump sum several months or years after the benefits start).
HOW LONG IT TAKES:
So, you have filled out the forms, collected the paperwork and submitted it to the American Legion, the VA office or someone else to be looked at. How long will it take to hear back? I use to tell people 4-6 months. However, it is currently taking longer due to the fact that more people are learning about this benefit.
If you don't hear something in the first few months, call the VA or American Legion and check on your case. They may be able to tell you where it is in the process.
Continue to do this every month or so. The VA has stacks of these cases in piles unfortunately.
If you don't hear anything about the benefit after 9 months, call the local congressman. We have been given that advice twice and it is helpful. Good luck!