Caregiving is like a delicate puzzle as we piece together care for our loved ones — all the support never comes from one place. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) became a crucial puzzle piece for my late father, Robert, a World War II and Korean War veteran who had Alzheimer's disease.
The VA offers many benefits and services for veterans and their caregivers. Sure, it's a complicated system to navigate sometimes, but it's absolutely worth the effort.
Dad never used any of the benefits or health care he was eligible for as a veteran until he needed hearing aids. Later, I applied for VA Aid and Attendance (A&A) benefits and gradually obtained additional services and supports for him.
Eventually, he needed 24-hour care. His VA benefits and services were a huge help with his budget.
VA programs caregivers should know about
If you're a veteran or caring for one, these benefits and services may be available. More information about eligibility is on the VA website.
VA Caregiver Support. I started my search for information about benefits and services by calling VA's caregiver support line, 855-260-3274, and returned to those representatives whenever I got lost in the bureaucratic maze.
They were helpful and connected me with a local caregiver support coordinator who assisted me in locating the VA medical center and services in our area. Your support coordinator is a good person to call when you hit roadblocks.
Pension, Aid and Attendance, and Housebound benefits. As a veteran, your loved one may be eligible for certain financial benefits. Because Dad served during eligible wartime periods and met other age, financial and health criteria, he qualified for the A&A program, which offers financial help for veterans to pay for long-term care.
A&A and a related pension enhancement for aging and ailing veterans, the Housebound allowance, have distinct qualification criteria related to the recipient's physical condition and capabilities. The programs are aimed at veterans in financial need and also restrict eligibility based on income and assets.
Applications can take several months to process. In Dad's case it took a full year before he finally started receiving benefits. But if those benefits are approved, they are retroactive to the date the application was submitted.
Some businesses offer help in applying for A&A or a Housebound allowance, but they charge a fee for their services. Beware of shady financial advisers who try to talk veterans into risky financial moves that will supposedly help them get these extra benefits, a scam called “pension poaching.”