Do you know the history of Veterans Day, which will be celebrated on Tuesday, November 11th? Originally known as “Armistice Day,” it was first celebrated in 1919 to mark the first anniversary of the cessation of hostilities during WWI (although the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the war, was not signed until June 26, 1919). November 11th was designated as a legal holiday in 1938, and at that time, the focus remained a commemoration of those who served in WWI. In 1954, after experiencing WWII and the Korean War, the government amended the act of 1938 and changed the word “armistice” to “veterans,” so that the service of all wartime veterans could be honored. Many wartime veterans who do not have a war-related disability are unaware that, as they become older and possibly require assistance with the functions of daily living, the Veterans Administration offers a benefit to help pay for this type of care for Veterans and/or their spouses, if certain qualifications are met.
This benefit is only one type of veterans pension benefit, and is called “Aid and Attendance.” To be eligible, the veteran must have served at least one day during a period of war (the dates of wartime are designated by Congress), with a total of 90 days or more of active duty. In addition, the veteran or spouse of a veteran must meet one of the following conditions:
- Requiring the help of another person to perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding, mobility, and continence
- Being primarily bedridden due to a disability
- Residing in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity
- Having limited eyesight (corrected to a 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
Additional requirements include income and asset considerations. Unlike the federal Medicaid program, which provides specific dollar amounts to define eligibility, the VA instead uses a formula which takes into account numerous factors to calculate eligibility. This formula combines income amounts and net worth, as well as factors such as medical expenses, life expectancy, and number of dependents. A general guideline for a married Veteran and spouse is that their assets should be less than $80,000 (not including a home or vehicle) in order to be financially eligible for this benefit. Veterans with assets of greater than this amount would be wise to consult an elder law attorney to determine possible strategies for becoming eligible for this benefit without jeopardizing the possibility of obtaining a different public benefit in the future, since every benefit program has its own unique regulations and requirements.
The “Aid and Attendance” benefit is only one of various types of benefits which are available to Veterans, but is one which seniors may find extremely helpful as they try to stretch their dollars to pay for ongoing assistance with the tasks of daily living either at home or in a personal care home. For additional information about categories of benefits, eligibility requirements, and compensation amounts, visit the US Department of Veterans Affairs website at www.va.gov. Information is also available from county Veterans Affairs Offices. You may visit any Veterans Affairs office; it does not have to be the one in the county in which the Veteran resides. Contact numbers for local offices are as follows:
Cumberland County: 717-240-6178
Dauphin County: 717-780-6357
Franklin County: 717-263-4326
Perry County: 717-582-5133
A heartfelt thank you is extended to all Veterans for your service and the personal sacrifices you have made in order to promote freedom from tyranny for our country and other nations around the world. Happy Veterans Day!
Karen Kaslow, RN, BSN, Elder Care Coordinator