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This morning I attended a fantastic presentation about the Aid & Attendance Veterans benefit that I have written about a couple of times already on this blog.  It was great to review the information that we already know such as the amounts that veterans are eligible for.  But, I also learned a few other things that I would like to share.First we learned that according to a "mystery shop" performed by the "Army Times" 50% of callers to the VA were told the WRONG information about the benefit.  So- if you have called or are planning are calling there is a good chance that you will be given the wrong information, or will be told you are not eligible, when in fact you may be!  I am trying to do some research on this "mystery shop" but so far, have not been able to turn up anything on a Google search.  But when I do I will post it.I did find this information to be true if not dated: A 2004 VA report estimated that 853,000 veteransand 1.1 million widows are eligible but aren’t receiving pensions. That means only 27% of eligible vets and14% of eligible widows get the money that is due them.If all of those who are eligible received pensions, VAwould pay out an estimated additional $22 billion a year.I learned the benefit started after the civil war and that in order to qualify as a veteran of the civil war you had to have fought on the Union side!In order to apply, you will need your discharge separation papers DD-214 or standard form 180 both of which are now on-line and you can find them at the National Archives website.  This is a 28 page application. You will also need a copy of your social security award letter from January.A surviving spouse needs a marriage certificate and a death certificate. (you had to be married to the veteran at the time of his/her death 1 or more years).  If the veteran is well and the wife (for example) is needed care, the wife is not eligible for the benefit.  If the veteran needs care they could be eligible for up to $1,519 a month.  If the widow or widower needs care they might be eligible for up to $976 a month.  If they are both still living and both need care, then they could be eligible for up to $1801 per month.You will also need proof of bills.  In other words, you need to already be paying for this care.  If you are already paying privately for home care or living in an assisted living this would be the type of proof you would provide.  The cost of care has to be greater than their income.  This does not mean that someone who has assets would automatically disqualified.  You can work with an elder law atty or a financial planner to make sure the numbers help you qualify.If you live in Illinois, you will also need a Physician statement VDVA 10 like this one.  The veteran has to prove that they need to pay for care, need help with 2 or more activities of daily living.  If you are living independently, you will not qualify for this benefit.  But its still good to know what you need now, so when the time comes you are prepared!   I would also like to note that Illinois is the state that taps into  this federal benefit the least.  Meaning we come in #50.   Not good. If the veteran is currently living in assisted living or using in home care as I mentioned above, the benefits will be retroactive to the date of application.  Because the application process can take months, the sooner you apply the better.  If you apply in November and get approved in March the benefits will date back to November.  The money is sent directly to the veteran to pay for the care, not the agency or assisted living that is providing the care.Its also highly recommended that you use an advocate to file for you.  If you mail the form to the VA yourself, it could get lost or sent back.   For instance there are financial  planners that will help.  There are elder law attorneys that will help - though you need to note that they cannot charge you for this service.  However they can charge you for any estate planning that they do, which you should probably take care of as well.The American Legion also offers a free filing service.Special thanks to Pat for such and informative presentation this morning. If you are reading this and have anything to add, please feel free to post!  She also told us about another site that is very informative (and at times quite sad) that has information and links and forums for discussion.  You can find it at

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