“I don’t know how we’re going to manage.” Polly was in tears. “We were doing just fine. The house was paid off, and we had saved enough to get by.”
“I had to stop driving because of my eyes, but Harry did all that until his stroke. Now, I can’t leave him alone. We can’t afford assisted living or even help at home.” She started to break down. Harry used his good arm to rub his wife’s shoulder.
“Were either of you veterans?” I asked.
“Harry was — during the Korean War. But he was stationed in Japan.”
“That's OK,” I smiled. “As long as he served during wartime and has a good military discharge, he might be eligible for the VA Aid and Attendance program.”
“What's that?” Polly asked, her eyes brightening.
“Let me have Janet, my social worker, talk to you.”
In our office, the VA Aid and Attendance program is the best thing since sliced bread with butter and jam. It has helped many of our veterans and surviving spouses of veterans pay for care at home or in assisted living.
But many families who are struggling to care for an ailing veteran have never heard of it, or they think that it is only for career military retirees or veterans who have a service-related disability.
The VA Aid and Attendance program can provide up to $1,703 a month in aid for a single veteran, $2,019 for a married veteran or $1,094 a month for a surviving spouse. This helps pay for in-home care or assisted living.
Eligibility depends on income and assets.
Janet took my place in the exam room. Now, our couple was smiling through the tears — finally a ray of hope and help.
“First,” she started, “you’ll need some information when you go to apply. Like a copy of your discharge papers. You can track these down online. You’ll need financial information like proof of income, banking and investment statements, your annual Social Security Award Letter, that sort of thing.
“Then you’ll need to gather your medical expenses — insurance premiums, medication costs, anything that’s not covered by Medicare or Medicaid, including payment for caregivers. Also, make a list of all your doctors and the hospitals you have been admitted to over the past year.”
“That’s not hard,” Harry squeezed Polly’s hand. “She’s a great organizer.”
“For some folks, it’s a little daunting,” Janet said. “This program even serves surviving spouses of veterans, and they have to include their marriage license, spouse’s death certificates, etc.”
Janet continued, “The doctor will fill out the physician’s statement. It explains that the patient requires assistance with activities of daily living, like medication management, meal preparation, bathing and dressing, and whether they are home bound, bed bound, blind or have dementia.”
“It may take a few months before your application is approved, so be patient. Until then, we will work on getting you some affordable private duty help at home.”
“What if we have questions?” Polly asked.
“Call our friends at the Brevard County Veterans Service Team. They are at the County Government Center in Viera. Their phone number is 321-633-2012.”
Harry and Polly breathed a sigh of relief as they left the office.