Navigating the field of Veterans benefits can be a difficult task.  Here are some helpful tips.  


General Qualifications for Non-Service Connected Pension Plus Aid and Attendance

  • A veteran, widowed spouse, and dependent or disabled child can all be a claimant
  • Veterans typically must have served 90 days on active duty with one day during wartime.  However, those who enlisted after September 7, 1980 may have additional time requirements. 
  • A veteran cannot have had a dishonorable discharge
  • A claimant’s physician must declare him/her as in need of personal assistance from another individual or in need of a “protective environment”
  • Claimant should have limited household assets.  This qualification excludes the primary home, car, and personal belongings.  If assets are jointly owned by anyone other than dependent, only the claimant’s share is generally countable.  However, in the case of a married veteran, both his/her assets are countable.  In addition, the Veterans Administration now considers the claimant’s life expectancy in determining how much a claimant can have.
  • Claimant’s household out-of-pocket annual medical expenses must exceed or come close to exceeding his/her total annual household gross income. 
  • The surviving spouse must have been married to the veteran for at least one year or have had a child by the veteran if married less than one year.  The surviving spouse typically must have been living with the veteran at the time of the veteran’s death, however there are some exceptions to this. Additionally, the surviving spouse must never have re-married.  
  • Once awarded aid and attendance or household status, a veteran can obtain free medications, medical equipment, incontinence supplies, glasses, and hearing aids from the Veterans Administration Hospital/Clinic via home delivery. 


Who Can Help Fill Out the Form?

            Any non-accredited person can assist with filling out the forms.  However, this person is allowed to assist only one person.  A Veterans Administration (commonly known as the VA) accredited organization, such as a State Veterans Office may help as well.  An accredited attorney or VA agent are allowed to help you fill out your forms as well.  It is important to note that nobody can charge you for helping you prepare or present the Veterans Administration application forms. 


What are the Advantages of Having Attorney Assistance?

            As noted above, an attorney can help you fill out your VA application forms. An attorney is especially helpful because he or she can make sure that all of your assets are in order, which will help prevent a denial of your claim.  Additionally, an attorney veteran's benefitscan make sure you have completed all the necessary paperwork to prove your claim.  It is important to point out that the attorney you choose to help you through this process must be accredited through the VA.  This ensures that he or she can represent you before the VA if your claim is denied or you believe your award is incorrect. 


How Long Does it Take?

            In order to determine if you qualify for benefits, an attorney would probably need to review all of your financial, personal, military, and medical records.  The amount of time this would take would vary depending on how many different documents he or she has to consider.  Once your application is turned into the VA, it can take an average of one to five months to get your initial check if you are approved for benefits.  If you have memory loss issues, such as dementia, the VA will probably insist on meeting with you and your representative before they send you a check.  Obviously, this might delay the process slightly.


Where Does the Money Go?

            All award benefits are paid to the claimant. Therefore, even if you are in a care facility, all benefits will be paid directly to you and not the care facility or company.  The VA prefers to have all checks directly deposited into a bank account, but this option can be negotiated depending on your circumstances.


Are Benefits Retroactive?

            Benefits are retroactive from the first day of the next month after the VA receives any notification that you intend to file for benefits. However, in order for the benefits to be retroactive, you must live through the entire month after the VA receives your application. 

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg