Our office receives regular calls from families asking about the VA benefits, or Aid and Attendance Benefits. Often times, family members are told about these benefits from another elder care professional. Some even offer to help the families apply for VA benefits. So, how exactly do you apply for VA benefits?
Completing the Paperwork
If you meet all the criteria for a service pension you still have to go through the application process. The VA pension application process makes the Medicaid application process look simple. The VA pension application is very long and asks for many pieces of supporting documentation: everything from military discharge papers to bank statements, to marriage certificates, to divorce decrees, to death certificates, to proof of the level of disability. Once the actual application is completed and filed with the VA, the process, in general, is painfully slow; on average the process takes six to nine months, however, the benefit is retroactive to the month after the application is submitted. It is very important to have all papers together at the time of application in a “ready to rate” format.
You can access everything you need to apply for VA benefits online. But be forewarned, although you can apply on your own, we do not advise that families tackle this project without some help. Filing a claim for VA disability benefits is a complicated process, even when the claim seem straightforward. Even though the VA makes basic claim forms available, we highly recommend that anyone making a benefit claim obtains assistance and guidance from an accredited attorney, a claim’s agent or Veterans Service Officer. The process and forms can be confusing and any information omitted or completed incorrectly can delay the process by 3-5 weeks.
You can find professionals to help you with the application, but only work with individuals accredited by the VA. Federal law requires anyone assisting with a claim for VA benefits be accredited by the VA General Counsel (Title 38 USC §5901 and 38 CFR 14.626). The VA only recognizes three types of individuals that can be accredited: attorneys, claim’s agents and Veterans Service Officers. Every person accredited by the VA receives credentials from the General Counsel. Ask to see their credentials or search for them on the General Counsels website. If they cannot provide their official VA credentials or you cannot find their name listed on the General Counsel’s website, avoid them at all cost! They are in acting violation of federal law.
If you or someone you know is a veteran and not currently receiving any benefits from the VA, please contact your local Georgia Department of Veterans Services field office. These offices are part of the state government and have been created to help Georgia’s veterans and their families access VA benefits.
If you would like additional information about the VA’s Pension with Aid and Attendance Program (especially if you have questions about the new changes that started on October 18, 2018), please contact Hurley Elder Care Law for a complimentary phone consultation at (404) 843-0121 or visit our website at www.hurleyeclaw.com