You Earned the Pension Because You Served
Video Transcript: You Earned the Pension Because You Served
I was sitting with Kevin, a veteran from the Vietnam era, and his daughter to discuss the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit, or as they called it based on their research, just the “Aid and Attendance” benefit. Kevin was mentally sharp as a tack, but physically he was starting to need more help just getting by with his daily activities. His daughter Diane was more than willing to help, but he wanted to make sure that he was as little a burden as possible. And so he did a little online research (with the help of his granddaughter) to see if there was a way to afford care. There was. But Diane was skeptical.
“But dad, it says right here that you have to be a combat veteran,” Diane said. “You told us you never saw combat.”
“Actually, that’s not true,” I said. “You just have to serve the required number of days when the U.S. was engaged in combat, on active duty in, a major branch of service somewhere in the world.”
“But Dad never even left the United States,” Diane said. “How can he be qualified for a pension for serving during combat if he never left U.S. military bases?”
“Because I served,” Kevin said.
“Exactly,” I said. “Your stateside service to support the war qualifies. You were there when your country needed you, and you could have been sent into combat at any time. Now, this is one way your country is supposed to be there for you.”
There are some simple rules to determine whether or not a person qualifies for the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit. And I say “person” and not “veteran” because the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit is open to veterans who served during specific periods of time, the spouses of veterans who served during those same times through the veteran, and widow(er)s of veterans who served during that time period. But there are rules defining spouses and widow(er)s as well.
Service Test for Veterans
The first test is to determine whether the veteran served during the specific dates. If the veteran served before September 7, 1980, the veteran must have served on active duty for at least 90 days, one day of which must have been during war time. That’s it. One day was considered war time, and the total time in the service is at least 90 days. But then the question is what dates were considered war time?
For Veterans who have served at some point during World War II through the end of Vietnam, it is extraordinarily hard not to qualify except in cases where service was only between Korea and Vietnam. Here are the dates:
* World War II—December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946 (please note, this includes the occupation period after the war officially ended).
* Korean Conflict—June 27, 1950 through January 21, 1955
* Vietnam Era—August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975; (and specifically for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964 it would be February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975)
* Gulf War—August 2, 1990 through a date to be set by law of Presidential Proclamation. For this war specifically, the time of service is 24 months or completing the term of active duty, whichever comes first.
There may also be other, more complicated rules for veterans serving during other war time periods that it is best to simply say that you should call to find out if the service times qualify. In addition, the pension may be available for service outside of the “traditional” or main branches of military service, such as the Merchant Marines and certain auxiliary organizations.
For Merchant Marines in particular, they were among some of the bravest who served during World War II but were not technically “active duty” with the Navy. They were exposed to the dangers of the German U-Boats serving on ships that were, for the most part, slow and defenseless. If a family member served in the Merchant Marines and can document service on a vessel that traveled the sea lanes that were under attack by German submarines, then they many qualify for the VA Pension Benefit. Our colleagues at the Senior Veterans Council can assist in researching the Merchant Marine and Coast Guard records to see if they may qualify.
One thing to keep in mind is that this Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit is only available to veterans 65 or older unless they are completely disabled. In such cases, there are other potential benefits such as Disability Compensation that may be available, but in most cases a choice has to be made between the other compensations and the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit.
Discharge Status Test
If a Veteran received an Honorable Discharge, then they qualify under this test. If the discharge was “less than honorable,” meaning General or Medical, then the circumstances of the discharge will be reviewed by the VA Pension Center for eligibility. A Dishonorable Discharge will not qualify for the VA Pension Benefit. To find out more about how the discharge status tests apply to your particular situation, please contact The Senior Veterans Council.
Healthy Veteran, Sick Spouses
In some cases, the veteran may be healthy, but it is their spouse who has health issues that are eating up their income with unreimbursed medical expenses. For spouses of veterans, they simply have to be married to a veteran who meets the service and discharge status tests. They also must not have been living “separate and apart” from the veteran at the time, which is a way to say they were going to actually become divorced or were for all intents and purposes divorced even if such divorce was not actually accomplished. In other words, the benefit is actually there to help the veteran help their spouse, and the pension check will go to the veteran rather than the spouse directly.
Widows and Widowers of Veterans
The qualification of a widow(er) of a qualifying veteran is not as simple as it may seem, mainly because divorces and remarriages matter in this test, but only during certain dates. Here are the specific rules about widows and widowers of qualified veterans:
* The widow or widower must have been married and living with the veteran at the time of the veteran’s death.
* If the person had divorced the veteran prior to the veteran’s death, then they are not considered a widow or widower for these purposes.
* The widow or widower must not have gotten remarried after the death of the veteran. If a widow or widower remarries, then that widow(er) is no longer eligible for the VA Pension Benefit under the Veteran who died. However, if that remarriage ends (for whatever reason) prior to November 1, 1990, then the widow(er) will again be eligible for the VA Pension Benefit under the Veteran’s marriage. (Note: The November 1, 1990 date does NOT apply to a widow(er)’s DIC Benefit. Regardless of when the remarriage ends, a Widow(er)’s DIC Benefit will be reinstated.)
While the rules seem straightforward if a little strange, there is no need to simply guess. Sometimes, there are specific exceptions to the rules that only an experienced Accredited VA Attorney or Agent would know about. If you have questions about whether or not a veteran meets the service requirement test, simply give us a call at 919-844-7993 and we can discuss it, or contact The Senior Veterans Council through their website at www.SeniorVeteransCouncil.com.
If you do have further questions, you can email them to my office or call me directly. Call my office at 919-518-8237 and ask for Jeff, but please mention you are calling in response to my V.A. Pension Benefit Planning e-mails. Thanks again and enjoy the information. The next section will be on the income qualification tests.
Jeffrey G. Marsocci
The Care Assistance Center, LLC
8406 Six Forks Road, Suite 102
Raleigh, NC 27615
Jeffrey G. Marsocci was born in Fort Worth, Texas but was raised in Lincoln, Rhode Island and graduated from Mount Saint Charles Academy High School. He graduated from Hofstra University with an undergraduate degree in Business, and two years later earned his law degree from the same school. He also earned a Certificate Degree in Non-Profit Management from Duke University in 2004, he was the Alumni of the Month for Hofstra University in June of 2013, and his firm was honored by the City of Raleigh with the 2011 Human Relations Business Award. Mr. Marsocci also became a Certified Medicaid Planner™ in 2014, a certification granted by the CMP™ Governing Board*, and he is an attorney accredited by the Veterans Administration to practice before the V.A. and its applicable administrative and legal tribunals.
In addition to working in his estate planning, estate administration, and Care Assistance Planning practice in Raleigh, NC since 1996, Mr. Marsocci is the author of numerous books including Estate Planning Basics, The Veteran’s Long Term Care Solution and other planning books found on Amazon.com. Mr. Marsocci frequently holds seminars for clients, financial advisors and other attorneys on topics related to the life and estate planning field as well as developing and presenting continuing legal education courses for attorneys and life insurance agents. Mr. Marsocci is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association, the Wake County Bar Association, and the National Italian American Bar Association. He and his wife Kathleen live in Raleigh, North Carolina and work with various charitable and non-profit groups including Kiwanis. Both are recipients of the President’s Call to Service Award through the Points of Light Foundation for completing more than 4,000 hours of service during their lifetimes.
*Certification is granted based upon a qualified candidate demonstrating a mastery of the skills and knowledge of the subject matter. To achieve certification, a CMP™ must meet certain education and/or experience requirements, show proficiency in Medicaid Planning through a thorough examination, and commit to adhere to the highest in professional standards. A CMP™ also subjects himself or herself to discipline by the CMP™ Governing Board. A Certified Medicaid Planner™ is not necessarily an attorney, so this designation is not governed or regulated by any state bar association.
Professional advice on how to access Medicaid and VA Benefits without giving up the house or assets using a trusted step-by-step process that literally walks you through a complex and bureaucratic system.
Get your free information packet “How a Little Known VA Benefit Can Provide Monthly Financial Support”
David Cole of the Senior Veterans Council and I have put together a useful packet of information along with my book “The Veteran’s Long Term Care Solution: The Truth Behind Long Term Care Planning for Veterans with the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit” which includes:
- 20-minute DVD outlines how the benefit can provide financial assistance towards the cost of in-home care, Assisted Living, or possibly independent living facility costs.
- VA Aid and Attendance Benefit Rate Table
- How to access immediate funds while applying for government assistance
- Using a NOVA Professional Advocate to Pre-Plan Your VA Claims
- Special Industry Report: Medicaid Secrets Reveals: Learn proven strategies to save your home and protect your life savings from devastating nursing home costs
- The Promise to America by Lyndon B. Johnson
- National Care Planning Council
- Book by Jeffrey G. Marsocci – The Veteran’s Long Term Care Solution: The Truth Behind Long Term Care Planning for Veterans with the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit
Disclaimer: The information contained in this email is provided “as is” with no warranties or guarantees. This information should not be considered as actual legal, tax or investment advice and you should always contact a certified accountant, tax professional, or attorney before making any financial decisions. While every attempt has been made to provide current and accurate information, neither the author nor the publisher can be held accountable for any errors or omissions. You agree that you are solely liable for any and all reliance, use, or action on this information.