The Aid and Attendance Veteran Pension Benefit Wait Is a Long One
White Plains, NY (Law Firm Newswire) July 5, 2013 – Though the U.S. government offers financial assistance to aging veterans through the Aid and Attendance pension benefit (A&A), many vets are finding it difficult to receive that aid.
A&A is designed to reimburse vets and family members the cost of caregivers who work in the home, which can include a vet’s children, if they are paid to give care, or to help cover the cost of nursing home or assisted living care. The A&A benefit may pay as much as $2,000 each month for the care of a vet and their spouse, and as much as $1,090 for a surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.
The A&A benefit program is still mostly unknown for many vets and their families. For those who have applied for the benefit, many report long delays and a lack of response from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The application is ten pages and includes requirements of additional forms and information, which can discourage applicants from applying. This is just the latest of many complaints about the Department of Veterans Affairs’ continued problems in processing benefits claims. According to the most recent numbers, 38,076 vets and 38,685 veteran spouses had their A&A benefit granted in 2011, which was an increase of 82 percent from 2007. Processing takes between 8 and 18 months for an applicant to hear from the VA regarding their application.
A large part of the problem is the record number of U.S. vets eligible for government benefits; in addition to the more than 1.7 million vets from World War II still drawing benefits, there are 1 million vets from Vietnam turning 65 and another 1 million veterans’ spouses eligible for A&A. The country has almost 1.5 million vets 85 and older, compared to the 164,000 estimated elderly vets in the U.S. in 1990. The VA’s benefit system is not designed to handle that much volume, and the VA is woefully understaffed.
Just 20,000 employees are currently assigned to handle all of the compensation and pension benefits for the millions of vets and vet-affiliated family members, according to a 2011 VA Performance and Accountability Report. That includes processing, following up, and all other associated administrative tasks. And A&A, as a non-service-related disability benefit, is lower priority than other benefit areas. Ninety-five percent of the work the VA does is working with wounded vets and their care.
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Maria M. Brill
Littman Krooks LLP
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