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Under-Publicized Military Pension Provides Welcome Relief to Senior Veterans and Their Spouses

By Daniel @ LivingSenior - April 20, 2011

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Thousands of retired veterans and their spouses may be eligible for a tax-free pension to help pay for non-service-related medical needs.  The pension, entitled Aid and Attendance (A&A), presently supports over 182,000 veterans, but experts say hundreds of thousands of others may be eligible.

The Aid and Attendance pension was established after World War I and is available to honorably-discharged veterans who served during a wartime period or their spouses.  Eligible service includes the Vietnam War era and the Gulf War of 1990, although veterans do not have to have seen combat to be eligible.

Once eligible to receive the A&A pension, married veterans can receive as much as $1,949 per month, while single veterans can get as much as $1,644. A veteran's surviving spouse can receive a maximum of $1,056, though a beneficiary's other income and benefits might reduce the amount of the pension.

Presently, over 182,000 veterans and their spouses are taking advantage of the A&A pensions, but a much larger number than that may be eligible.

We know that we're only hitting about one in four eligible veterans, said Tom Pamperin, the VA's deputy undersecretary for disability assistance. “There are a lot of veterans where it's been 40 years or more since they've been on active duty. It just doesn't occur to them there may be a benefit from the VA.

Beneficiaries must be at least 65 years old.  Applicants must need help with at least one activity of daily living: dressing, eating, walking, bathing, adjusting prosthetic devices or using the toilet. Those who are blind, living in nursing homes or require in-home care may also be eligible.  Veterans with service-connected disabilities get compensation through a separate program operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs and would not likely be eligible for the A&A pension.

To apply, A&A applicants must mail the forms, copies of service records, marriage certificates, proof of insurance and medical records to their regional VA office. If a third party is making the application, an additional form, 21-22-a or 21-0845, must be completed.  Once a pension is granted -- usually within a period of 90 days -- the VA provides a lump-sum payment to cover the benefit retroactively from when the application was filed.

Prospective Aid & Attendance applicants can get information from a veterans' organization such as the American Legion, and they can call the VA at 800-827-1000.