Many Veterans believe that they have to have suffered an in-service disability to qualify for monetary benefits from the Veterans Administration. This is a common misconception. Depending on health, income and assets, many senior Veterans (and their dependent or surviving spouses) can qualify for not only basic “Improved Pensions” based on low income, but also supplemental benefits of up to $2,053 per month as of 2013. The supplemental benefits are called “Housebound Benefits” and “Aid & Attendance Benefits.”
In order to qualify for any of these pension benefits, the Veteran (or surviving spouse, based on the Veteran’s military service record), must satisfy the following general criteria:
- The Veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty.
- At least one day out of the 90 days of active duty must have been during war time (there are defined dates for the beginning and end of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam Conflict; and the Gulf War, which began on August 2, 1990, is not concluded yet, and its ending date will be set by Presidential Proclamation at the appropriate time).
- The Veteran must have received a discharge other than dishonorable.
- The claimant and household must have limited income and assets.
- The claimant must have a permanent and total disability at the time of application (note that a surviving spouse can qualify for a basic low income pension without being disabled, but the Veteran must be disabled—although the disability does not have to be related to war time or military service).
- The disability must have been caused without the willful misconduct of the claimant and must not have been due to the abuse of alcohol or drugs.
As the name implies, Housebound Benefits are payable where the claimant is substantially confined to his or her home because of permanent disability. In order to qualify for Aid & Attendance benefits, the claimant must:
- Require the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required for everyday living (such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, transferring from bed to a wheelchair, or dealing with incontinence) OR
- Be bedridden, in that he or she must remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment OR
- Be a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical capacity OR
- Be blind or have very poor vision.
Applying for these supplemental benefits is not a quick or simple process, and if you decide to apply, you may want to enlist the help of a Veterans’ assistance organization or a specially-trained individual. Note that whoever assists with the application cannot charge a fee for that service. However, other services by the individual or organization may be chargeable.
Scott Makuakane, Attorney at Law
Specializing in estate planning and trust law.
Watch Scott’s TV show, Malama Kupuna
Sundays at 8:30pm on KWHE, Oceanic channel 11