SUPPORT FOR OUR AGING VETERANS AND SPOUSES: Special Benefits and Programs
Our veterans make the greatest sacrifice for the country. While there is no way to fully compensate them for this, there are several special benefits and programs aimed to offer assistance to our aging heroes. Listed below, are a handful of the programs and benefits that have helped these special clients and their spouses. Please note that this list is non-exhaustive, and each benefit requires the veteran or spouse meet specific clinical and financial requirements.
FEDERAL PENSION PROGRAMS: The following pension programs are available to disabled veterans (and their disabled spouses) as long as initial criteria are met—mainly that service was at least 90 days during qualifying dates of wartime periods (such as WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Gulf). Please note that the disability does NOT need to be service related, the veteran does NOT have to be retired from the military, and his/her service does NOT have to be in combat.
Aid and Attendance Benefit: This is a little-known benefit for veterans AND their surviving spouses. It does not get too much publicity but once you get through the (sometimes tedious) application process, an approval is well worth the time and effort. For example, a married veteran could receive up to $2,120/month, ($1,788 for a single veteran, $1,149 for a surviving spouse)
A veteran or spouse may apply for this financial benefit if the applicant meets ONE of the following clinical requirements:
-Needs assistance with activities of daily living (bathing, eating, dressing, etc)
-Is in a Nursing home because of a physical or mental incapacity
-Is blind or meets other severe visual impairment requirements
Basic Pension Benefit: the veteran must be 65 or older—OR— totally and permanently disabled
Housebound Benefit: the veteran must have:
a single permanent (100% disabling) disability AND
due to such disability is permanently and substantially confined to his/her immediate premises OR has another (at least 60% disabling) disability
STATE RUN SOLDIERS HOMES
There are two Soldiers’ Homes in Massachusetts, located in Chelsea and Holyoke, providing many services to veterans— including, but not limited to long term care, physical therapy, hospital care, and social services.
The cost of long term care at a Soldiers’ Home facility is significantly less than a private long term care facility. At $30 per day, this is only 10% of the daily cost of an average nursing home in Massachusetts.
To qualify, a veteran must have served for 90 consecutive days, one of which was during a time of war, with an honorable military discharge. In Holyoke, in certain instances, a veteran who served 180 days of regular, active service may qualify.
HOME AND COMMUNITY-BASED CARE
Although not in a nursing home, an elderly veteran may still need additional support at home.There are several programs that offer services such as adult day, in-home based, hospice, and respite care.These services are included in the VHA (Veterans Health Administration) standard medical benefit for clinically eligible members.
Qualifying veterans can receive funds (up to $600 for non-service-related and up to $2000 if service related) for burial costs if they were service-disabled, receiving pension, or died under VA care.Free burial in a state VA cemetery is also an option.
As a final thought, I want to reiterate that, as with many benefit programs, the application process can seem arduous, but try not to get frustrated! For instance, if you are helping a loved one who has lost official military paperwork, you may have some extra hurdles obtaining the required documents. Despite sometimes long hold-times on the phone, or a lengthy list of verifications, once awarded, these benefits can provide care and assistance to improve the quality of life for our most deserving population.