A little-known veterans’ benefit for long-term care expenses is available to wartime veterans and their spouses. But the benefit is being overlooked by thousands of families, industry observers say.
The Special Pension for Veterans’ Aid and Attendance pays up to $1,644 a month, $19,736 annually, toward assisted living, nursing homes or in-home care for veterans 65 and older who served at least 90 days and one day during wartime — stateside or overseas. Veterans and their spouses can receive up to $23,396 annually and spouses of deceased veterans, $12,681. Yet, an estimated $22 billion a year goes unclaimed, said Don Soard, a volunteer with Operation Veteran Aid in Oklahoma City. In 2007, only 134,000 seniors nationwide received the benefit, which was established in 1952. "Literally hundreds of thousands don’t even know about it,” Soard said. "Due to incomplete information, many disqualify themselves on income or assets or find the paperwork too burdensome.”
Streamlined processSoard helps families complete the necessary forms, so that approval comes in four to six months. The process is streamlined for vets who are blind or have memory issues and widows with medical needs, he said. Most applicants qualify and payments are retroactive, Soard said. The few who are denied on excessive liquid assets can seek financial advice to qualify, he said. Soard started his volunteer mission two years ago, following the deaths of two family members who served in WWII. "If they’d known about this benefit, they’d have a much better quality of life in later years,” he said.