Saluting Our Veterans: Information, Advice and Fond Memories

On November 11, 1919 Veterans Day originated as "Armistice Day", marking the first anniversary of the end of World War I. In 1926 Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance, and in 1938 Nov. 11 became a national holiday. The name was changed to Veterans Day in legislation signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954 so that veterans from all American wars would be honored. The holiday has become a day to honor our veterans with parades and speeches, with a national ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Current Veteran Statistics

According to the most recent government statistics (gathered in 2007) there are 23.6 million veterans living in the United States. 9.3 million of them are 65 and older. And 6 million veterans have a disability.

Overlooked Veterans' Benefits

There are benefits available to veterans that are often overlooked. Assisted living and in-home senior care options are available, particularly for those with disabilities. The US Department of Veteran Affairs points out two such often- overlooked benefits that are paid in addition to the monthly pension. They are the "Aid and Attendance" (A and A) benefit and "Housebound" benefits. To be eligible for the A and A benefit the veteran "(1) must require the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazard of his/her daily environment, OR (2) be bedridden, OR(3) be a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity OR (4) is blind or nearly blind" . To be eligible for the "Housebound Benefit" the veteran must have a "single permanent disability evaluated as 100% disabling AND, due to such disability, he/she is permanently and substantially confined to his/her immediate premises. A veteran cannot receive both Aid and Attendance and Household benefits at the same time."

If a veteran qualifies, the A and A benefit can be up to $1,632 per month, a surviving spouse is eligible for up to $1,055 per month. A couple can receive up to $1,949 per month. This benefit can go a long way to help veterans get the in-home and assisted living care they need. The veteran applies at his VA regional office for these benefits. For more detailed information go to US Department of Veterans Affairs website at VA.gov.

According to Richard Shea, writing for UALaw.com, " Most VA benefits and pensions are based on a disability which was incurred during a veteran's wartime service. There is another benefit, however - a pension program - available for individuals who are disabled due to the issues of old age, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and other physical disabilities." …"The applicant does not need to be helpless he/she need only show that he/she is in need of aid and attendance on a regular basis. Someone who is housebound or is in an assisted living facility and over the age of 65 is presumed by the Veterans Administration to be in the need of aid and attendance."

As is the case with the pension benefit, eligibility for the A and A or Household Benefit is determined by the net worth and income criteria of the veteran. But, there are several expense items that can be deducted to lower income, including home attendants and aids that perform medical or nursing services, unreimbursed medical expenses, and the cost of an assisted living facility.

The best way to know truthful information about veterans' benefits is to contact your state veterans' affairs agency at nasdva.net. And it is a good idea to seek the advice of an elder law attorney familiar with disability, Medicaid and veterans' benefits when filing these claims. Be sure your attorney, or any advisor, is accredited by the VA.

A very helpful site for information about these benefits, how to file, eligibility, forms to use, and a variety of links for veterans' issues is VeteranAid.org.

Assisted Living Senior Centers Welcome Veterans

Some assisted living facilities go out of their way to welcome veterans, with military-themed décor and programs for vets. In some cases they even offer discounts for veterans. If you are considering entering senior housing, ask the property's management about any special considerations or veterans' programs they may have. Remember too that it may be possible to start a veterans' club where members gather to reminisce, observe Veterans' Day, or just play cards.

A Scam that Targets Veterans in Senior Communities

Sid Kirchheimer, writing in the October 1, 2010 AARP Bulletin, cautions seniors about scams targeting older veterans in community centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Unscrupulous salesmen, who describe themselves as "Veterans Advocates", hold seminars in which they advise the veteran to purchase products through their company. The company may have an official sounding government name, and they claim that working with them can make the senior eligible for Veterans' Pensions and other benefits. In reality the senior vet is convinced to transfer assets into an irrevocable trust so it appears they are impoverished and therefore qualified to receive A and A benefits. Often the money is put into a long-term investment, which will not pay out in the senior's lifetime. The only one who profits is the salesman who pockets a high sales commission. The Veterans' Administration requires that anyone assisting a veteran in applying or qualifying for veteran's benefits be accredited by the VA. Also, no one is permitted to charge a veteran to assist with filing for VA benefits.

Cherished Memories

In honor of Veterans Day, here are some of the fond memories related by Boomerater members about their relatives, and ways you can help serve those who have courageously served our country.

Growing up in a patriotic home

"I'm a baby boomer so I grew up in the long shadow of WWII. It was a patriotic and hopeful time in the years following this great allied victory. Both my parents fought overseas as did 4 of my uncles. All returned home safe. As kids, we played with their uniforms and caps and medals and K-rations and whatever else we found in their trunks which were lined up in my Grandmother's garage. I remember that when our family gathered around my grandmother's dining room table in Shawnee, OK. Late night ice clinking, cigarette smoke run amuck, with sounds of crickets and curtains flapping in the hot summer breeze. Occasionally there was talk about those "old" army days, especially when my older cousins were home and considering entering the Korean Conflict. We were all so patriotic and though I don't remember exactly what was said, I am sure my cousins fought in Korea because their uncles and aunt came home from Europe steadfast in their support of our country's mission all over the world. I really am in awe of the "Greatest Generation". I guess post-war movies are what romanticized WWII for us Boomers. Audie Murphy, William Holden, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable- they all served and then came home and re-enacted the war on screen for those of us who couldn't be there. It is only recently that I wanted to learn of my parents' experiences. My Mother, who spent most of her service in England as a 1st Lt. in the Army Nurse Corp, passed away in 2008. She was honored with inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery, maybe the most sacred place on earth. It makes her children very proud. My Dad, a Paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, would have been thrilled and shocked to receive his dog tags, which were returned to his family in 2003, protected for 60 years under just 7" of soil deep in the forests of the Ardennes, where he remembered losing them during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1943-44. God has truly blessed this country. All over the world we continually find ourselves fighting for and defending the gift of Free Will, which He gave every human soul. November 11th is the day set aside each year as a time to remember and give thanks to all the troops. I hope you will remember their sacrifices on this Veterans' Day.

A Navy Uniform Continues to Honor a Pearl Harbor Veteran

After both of my parents passed away, it was up to me to close up the family home. With the help of my family we had the garage sale, donated to charities, gave away some items and kept the rest. I couldn't bear to give away my Dad's Navy uniforms, yet it seemed silly to keep them. My Dad was a character, a larger than life, funny guy with a beautiful Irish Tenor voice. My daughter, like her Poppy, loved the theater, and spent most of her high school days on or behind the stage. That was the perfect solution - his uniforms belonged in the costume department of her high school to be filled with young energetic lives. When I donated the uniforms I also gave the school a photo of my Dad so the kids would know they were wearing the dress blues of an American hero. My Dad would be thrilled to know that his uniforms are still being used and it meant a great deal to my daughter to contribute them in Poppy's honor.

40 Years after the Vietnam Draft Lottery

On the 40th anniversary of the draft lottery for the Vietnam War, most of us Boomers can still remember how that day and the war changed the lives of so many of our generation. On December 1, 1969, our family gathered around the TV with my brother and his friends who were of draft age. My brother fortunately drew #266 and never had to serve. While we were lucky, so many others of our community were not. Some were killed, others were missing in action, and others came home to relive the memories and nightmares of witnessing unconscionable horror. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our Vietnam Vets who too often were maligned by the country they served. One way of giving back is to donate items to the Vietnam Veterans of America. They will pick up your clothing and household items to sell to local thrift stores. They use the money to fund programs that directly benefit Vietnam Veterans. To see what items they accept (nearly everything) and to schedule a pick up go to vva.org or call 800-882-1316.

Our Newest Veterans Need your Help

Our National Guard units returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan are finding a whole new world at home. While gone, the American economy declined, resulting in the closing of many businesses. Many of these veterans no longer have jobs and are struggling to pay for basic necessities. The National VFW has programs that help veterans and their families. Please visit its website at VFW.org to discover ways that you can help.