Founded in 1994 by Mark Lloyd, The Lloyd Group, Inc. serves the distinctive financial needs of those nearing retirement and those already retired. "Focus On Retirement," a weekly radio show hosted by Mark Lloyd can be heard in Athens on 1340 AM WGAU Saturdays at 11 a.m. and in Gainesville on 103.7 FM WXKT Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. and Sundays at 7:30 a.m. To learn more about The Lloyd Group, Inc., call 770-932-0387 or go to www.thelloydgroupinc.com.
On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, millions of Americans around the country will take the time to acknowledge and pay tribute to the men and women of our armed forces who have served and who continue to serve to protect and defend the United States of America. While Veterans Day is a great opportunity to recognize and honor their inspiring courage, selfless service and enormous sacrifice, it is important that we remember to do what we can to support military veterans and their families for the other 364 days of the year as well.
As the father of a recently active duty service member, this responsibility is one that I take seriously, and I have devoted considerable professional energy to working with the Veterans Assistance Association (VAA) to help educate, inform and raise community awareness about the government programs and resources available to eligible veterans and their families.
One of those programs is the Aid & Attendance Benefit (A&A), a potentially valuable but all-too-often overlooked benefit that has the potential to make a substantial financial and quality of life difference for recipients. Despite the fact that millions of seniors are eligible for significant monthly benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) through the A&A, many but do not even realize they qualify. That is something that needs to change. A Congressionally funded benefit that was founded in 1951 and modified in 2001, the A&A is designed to assist with the costs of long-term care for qualifying veterans.
Tucked away in just four pages in a weighty, 1,800-page VA manual, the details of the program are as follows:
When assessing eligibility, the VA evaluates a number of factors, including an applicant's service, medical need, income, expenses and assets. A&A benefits are available to the families of senior citizens (65 years of age and older) who received a discharge other than dishonorable and who have served at least 90 days of active duty service, only 1 day during a wartime period (does not have to be served in combat), during one of the following periods:
-- World War II: Dec. 7, 1941-Dec. 31, 1946
-- Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950-Jan. 31, 1955
-- Vietnam Era: Aug. 5, 1964-May 7, 1975
-- One additional period of eligibility includes veterans who served their one-day between Feb. 28, 1961, and Aug. 5, 1964; during this time the veteran had to serve "in country" or in the Republic of Vietnam.
To qualify, an applicant's disability does not need to be related to military service, but must require the regular assistance of another person to complete any of the following tasks: eating, bathing, dressing and undressing, or using the bathroom. Significant hardships such as blindness and required nursing home residence or assisted living care also qualify under the terms of the program.
The A&A is essentially a specialized pension benefit; a monthly stipend intended to reduce or defray the costs associated with long-term care. Depending on the level of care needed, the benefit can be up to $1,949 for a married veteran, $1,644 for a single veteran and $1,056 for a widowed spouse. For those in need, the A&A can be a life-changing resource. The monthly checks can not only help veterans or their surviving spouses remain independent and receive additional in-home care, they can also help defray the ever-growing expense of a nursing home or assisted living facility. The bottom line is that in most cases, the A&A benefit enables recipients to get the care they need and to do so living wherever they are most comfortable.
To apply for the A&A benefit, veterans and their families will need to gather several pieces of information and documentation required by the VA:
-- Physician certification that the applicant needs assistance in one of the categories listed above.
-- Eligibility must be proven by filing the correct forms (Form 21-534 for a surviving spouse and Form 21-526 for a veteran).
-- Separation papers from the military (generally Form DD-214)
-- Net worth limitations
-- Net income
-- Out-of-pocket medical expenses
Accurate documentation is critically important, as errors can result in a denied application and a mandatory one-year wait before re-applying. The complex application process is not without headaches: even after eligibility is determined, it can take 8-to 12-months for the VA to formally approve the application. While the detailed application can be daunting, it is vitally important for applicants and their families to seek out the help they need throughout the process in order to obtain the benefits they are legally and morally entitled to as an American veteran.
For aging U.S. veterans who are struggling to cope with skyrocketing health care costs and dealing with the frustration and worry associated with aging and declining health, the Aid & Attendance Benefit can both literally and figuratively be a lifesaver. The more that we, as a community, can reach out to those families and individuals in need and do our part to ensure that those deserving heroes receive the full range of financial benefits to which they are entitled, the stronger we will be as a nation. I can think of no better way to commemorate this Veterans Day: 11-11-11.
Mark Lloyd is founder of The Lloyd Group, Inc., which serves the distinct financial needs of those nearing retirement and those already retired. Visit www.thelloydgroupinc.com.