The Veteran’s Administration and VA hospitals have come under fire in recent years. Congress has charged the VA to get its act together and take care of those troops who served when the country needed them most, in wartime. Many veterans 65 and older and even some who are younger as well as surviving spouses of vets who served during war years may be entitled to financial assistance during retirement years. The vet need not have served in combat to qualify.
The benefits are real but, like all things bureaucratic, require patience and follow through. Navigating the process through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) can be extraordinarily complicated and trying.
Who Qualifies for VA Benefits
For veterans aged 65 and older and their families who are struggling to pay for senior care, qualified vets must have served during wartime years, defined by the VA as follows:
- For World War II, the veteran must have been in service from between 12/7/1941 and 12/31/1946.
- For the Korean Conflict, eligible vet must have been in service between 6/27/1950 and 1/31/1955.
- For veterans of the Vietnam War, service must have been between 8/5/1964 and 5/7/1975, although veterans who served “in country” as early as 2/28/1961 may also qualify.
- Veterans of the Gulf War must have been in service between 08/2/1990 to a date to be determined by U.S. government.
Veterans below 65 years of age but who are 100% disabled may also qualify for a VA pension. Dates of service must be supported by official discharge papers. If these papers are lost, they can be obtained through the National Archives. In any case, these dates of service are the first threshold veterans must meet in order to qualify for any of three distinct tiers of VA benefits.
Three Distinct Tiers of VA Benefits
For senior wartime veterans and their spouses, the revamped Veterans Benefits program identifies three distinct tiers or levels of pension benefits.
- Tier One – Basic Pension – This benefit is a cash assistance program to help low income vets and their dependents. The veteran can be healthy but must have low income to qualify for this tier.
- Tier Two – Housebound – For Housebound Tier Two recipients, the vet must need assistance with day-to-day activities on a regular basis.
- Tier Three – Aid and Assistance – Under Tier three, the wartime veteran Aid and attendance assistance must be required on a daily basis.
Veteran benefit awards increase as the Tiers and levels of required assistance increase. Supporting documentation may be required.
Financial Eligibility Requirements
The VA describes veteran benefits as “means tested,” meaning that only wartime veterans who genuinely qualify and need benefits will receive them. The veteran’s income, assets and needs are compiled and considered on a case by case basis.
There are cases where veterans whose incomes and assets exceed the maximum threshold can still qualify for pension assistance. Age of the applicant can play an important role in the process. The key is to gain an understanding of how the VA accounts for “countable income.” In any case, the worst outcome is that the veteran’s application will be rejected. There is neither a penalty for a rejection nor a fee to file an application for Veteran’s Benefits.
How to Apply
For senior veterans unfamiliar with the VA, filing an application can be an intimidating process. The application and methods tend to be complex, and, yes, “hurry up and wait” still applies to the VA!
Many vets opt to contact an accredited attorney or VSO Benefits representative. Veterans Services Officers are also often found at local American Legion locations ort at Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) lodges.
Many wartime vets are entitled to and can benefit from VA pensions. Take a few minutes to see if your country can now serve you.