Benefits For Veterans
For veterans and their loved ones, knowing the benefits available for senior veterans can be a helpful way to obtain healthcare, housing, senior care, employment, and other necessities. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), which officially provides veteran benefits, reports that there were over 12.4 million veterans 65 or older in 2012. Many of them served in the Korean War, Vietnam War, World War II, or Persian Gulf War.
But despite their high numbers, many senior veterans and their families are not aware of their benefits. The application process is often obscure or complicated, and many do not realize that the VA’s programs extend beyond employment assistance and end-of-life issues; they also respond to the health and financial issues particular to many senior veterans. This article will explain which benefits are available to all veterans, which are available to senior veterans in particular, and how to apply for veteran benefits.
Benefits Available to All Veterans
Senior veterans can access all of the same benefits as other veterans, provided they meet all eligibility requirements. General benefits that the VA offers and their eligibility requirements include:
- Veterans Pension: Available to low-income veterans who have served in active duty for either 90 days before September 7, 1980, or at least 24 months afterward; veterans must be at least 65 years old, totally and permanently disabled, nursing home patients, receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, or receiving Supplemental Security Income.
- Survivors Pension: Available to deceased veterans’ low-income, un-remarried spouses and/or unmarried children (under 18, or under 23 if attending a VA-approved school, or any age if permanently disabled before age 18). The veteran must have fulfilled the same service requirements as the Veterans Pension (see above), plus at least one day of service during wartime and not dishonorably discharged.
- Disability Compensation: Available to veterans whose disabilities resulted from service-related injuries or diseases. Conditions include physical disabilities, conditions such as Lou Gehrig's disease, and mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Available to spouses, children, and parents of veterans who died while on active duty, on active duty for training, on inactive duty training, or due to service-connected disabilities.
- Healthcare: Available to veterans who served for at least 24 months after September 7, 1980, without receiving a dishonorable discharge. VA medical centers often place veterans already receiving VA benefits into a high-priority group more likely to receive healthcare benefits.
- Home Loans: Available to veterans with a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE), in addition to other requirements depending on whether they receive Purchase Loans and Cash-Out Refinance, Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan, Native American Direct Loan, or Adapted Housing Grants.
- Life Insurance: Available to veterans under various eligibility requirements, depending on whether they apply for Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, Veterans' Group Life Insurance, Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection, Service-Disabled Veterans' Insurance, or Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance.
- Education and Training: Available to veterans who prove eligible, although less applicable to veterans at retirement age.
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment: Available to veterans with service-related disabilities who prove eligible, although less applicable to veterans at retirement age.
- Burial and Funeral Reimbursements: Available to veterans discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and receiving certain VA benefits, at an initial cost to spouses or dependents. Benefits include a place in a national veterans’ cemetery (often with spouses and dependents), a government headstone or marker, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.
The next section of this article will discuss senior-specific benefits, which mainly apply to senior veterans who already receive other VA benefits.
Senior-Specific Veteran Benefits
For veterans receiving or eligible for a VA Pension benefit, one senior-specific benefit is the Aid and Attendance program –named for recipients’ need for attendance from another person. Seniors are eligible for this benefit if they require help with everyday actions (such as bathing, eating, and dressing), are a patient in a nursing home, are bedridden, or are severely visually impaired. The Aid and Attendance pension provide more money than the Veterans Pension; disabled senior veterans confined to their living space may also receive an even higher Housebound pension amount.
VA healthcare also specifically includes geriatrics –namely in their Geriatrics Program, Long Term Care, Home Based and Community Services, and Nursing Home and Residential Care. Eligibility for these benefits depends on finances, service-related disability status, insurance coverage, availability of service regionally, and the patient’s need for ongoing treatment, assistance, and personal care. These benefits involve help with everyday tasks and treatment of illnesses, available in a range of settings such as home, residential settings, community sites, and nursing homes.
The pension, life insurance, and burial benefits mentioned above are of particular relevance to seniors eligible to receive them, especially as aging and retirement may ultimately determine this eligibility. The next section of this article will explain how to apply for veteran benefits.
How to Apply for Veteran Benefits
Each veteran benefit has specific application instructions on its VA webpage. In general, benefits require various forms of evidence that the applicant is eligible (mainly documents). You can apply using the VA’s online “eBenefits” system, consulting an accredited representative or agent, or consulting employees at your regional VA office. By navigating these systems, you can learn about the eligibility requirements well in advance; organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars can also make navigation easier.
Taking advantage of VA benefits can make a world of difference for handling the issues that arise from aging, disability, and veteran status. As mentioned, one such difficulty is navigating the system to claim these benefits in the first place. However, using these resources increases their chance of receiving funding that would improve them and ensure that veterans and their loved ones can continue using them. Once you have the right sources of information at your disposal, you can determine eligibility for senior veteran benefits, apply for them with necessary documents, and receive the help you may have otherwise never known was available.Want more resources? Learn More >>
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