Aid & Attendance · Caregiver · Financial stress

Aid & Attendance, part 1 / July 26, 2006

I am beginning the process of applying for a Veterans’ Administration benefit called, informally, Aid & Attendance. I hadn’t heard of it until a co-worker of mine told me about it. At that point I found a website that will “talk” me through the process of applying. I understand that you can hire individuals or organizations to process the application for you, and that this may cost anywhere from $200-$600. I’m arrogant enough to try to do it myself, and I thought I would keep a running account of my progress in this blog.

According to Debbie Burak, who is the creator of the website, if the individual applying for the benefit has Alzheimer’s Disease (or any form of dementia) then the VA will require a fiduciary be assigned, which will involve a interview with the applicant. Burak suggests being forcefully proactive, otherwise, this circumstance will create even more of a delay in an already-longterm process. This makes me a little nervous on my mother’s behalf. I have durable power of attorney already, and I hope that will count for something.

In short, Aid & Attendance is a monthly pension awarded to qualifying veterans (with at least 90 days of service, some of which must have occurred during wartime), their surviving spouses and their parents, to offset nursing home, assisted living and homecare costs. (I am going to track down the statute and post a link here. ) The person applying must have less than $80,000 in assets, excluding their home and vehicles. I’ve oversimplified greatly here, so it’s best to look at Burak’s site for the details.

What I’ve done so far is to download a copy of the actual application, VA form 21-534, which looks to be about 6 pages long and includes a 4-page instruction sheet. From this (and from the website) I can see that I will have to get copies of my father’s Separation papers, as well as a copy of my parents’ marriage certificate.

There are several ways of getting a copy of Dad’s Separation papers–all of which require a signature–so I’ve opted for what seems to be the fastest: The National Archives has a site called eVetRecs. You are taken through a sequence of screens and asked basic questions about the type of record you want located: name and SSN of veteran, which branch, approximate discharge date. This generates a printable sheet that has a barcode. I’ll have to sign the sheet and mail it to an address in St. Louis, MO, within 30 days, or else the request is deactivated.

(The annoying part of this step is knowing that I have a copy of my father’s separation papers somewhere at home–we needed them in order to get the VA to provide his gravestone and military service. But because I am such an orderly individual, it will take 3-4 passes before I find these papers, tucked, no doubt, in a perfectly logical (at the time) spot. )

From the bit of research I’ve done on local records, I’ve discovered that I might do better contacting the city of Providence for a copy of my parents’ marriage record, rather than the State Dept. of Health (which holds all marriage records less than 100 years old). I think I’m going to try’s VitalCheck which charges $15……well, I just tried it twice, and both times got an unintelligible error message, so I guess it’s off to the snail mail.

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