When it comes to letting veterans know about the benefits they’re entitled to and how to access those benefits, the VA might not win any awards. But those benefits are there for the taking. Many involve payouts that can drastically change the quality of life for elderly veterans.
Is there a benefit that few people know about? We posed this question to Steven Rubin, a Certified Elder Law Attorney and a VA accredited attorney at Drazen Rubin Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Milford, Connecticut. Steven has been advising clients on VA-related issues for more than eight years.
Steven says that benefits aren't just limited to the veteran. In some cases, the spouse of a veteran can also get benefits. “If a spouse becomes disabled, he or she can be eligible for VA Aid and Attendance based on the Veterans qualifying service,” Steven said. “While a spouse gets significantly less money than the veteran does, the spouse can get a monthly payment that will help offset the cost of home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.”
Though the care-related programs are the ones most often utilized, a veteran’s spouse is eligible for almost all the programs the VA offers. “We have a case right now where the spouse is getting around $1,200 a month as a tax-free benefit towards her homecare,” Steven noted. “That's pretty significant.”
A veteran’s surviving spouse can also be eligible to receive service-connected benefits. If a veteran had a service-connected disability, a surviving spouse can be eligible for monthly payments. One of Steven’s clients has a spouse with Parkinson's disease whose disability became service-connected after the VA expanded coverage to include veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. “She will be eligible for a monthly benefit of around $1,154 a month from the VA after he passes away,” he explained.
Many Vietnam veterans and their families don’t realize that a new law extends the presumption of exposure to herbicides to veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam. These veterans are now entitled to service-connected benefits based upon a condition that is presumptive to exposure to Agent Orange. This is also a win for the eligible survivors of these veterans. Veterans who were previously denied for an Agent Orange-related presumptive condition can file a new claim based on the change in law. Eligible survivors of these deceased veterans also may benefit from the new law and may file claims for benefits based on the veterans’ service.
Could the VA do a better job of letting people know about these benefits? Steven says yes. “Most of my clients had no idea that these programs even existed,” he added. “Or, once they discovered them, usually from an attorney or a social worker at a hospital, they had no idea how to apply for them, or they applied and were denied because they didn't understand the rules. Service-connected disabilities aren't an unknown for most veterans. The unknown is that you can have a service-connected disability come up after your time in service is over, or that the coverage can change, and you don’t know about it.”
Your local Life Care Planning Law Firm can help you uncover all the VA benefits a veteran and his or her spouse may be eligible for. Click here to find a firm near you.