How to Obtain Veteran Service Records

You’ve decided to apply for veteran’s benefits for yourself or your spouse.  Or you’re helping Dad or Mom get VA Aid and Attendance benefits.  Now what?  The process can be confusing, but the one of the first (and most important) steps you can take is to obtain a certified copy of your veteran’s service records. These records will not only help you make sure your veteran is eligible for benefits, but they are required documentation that the VA will need to process your application. Having your DD-214 or other discharge paperwork ahead of time can greatly speed up the process.  Also, when applying for veteran’s benefits, the VA will want an original or certified copy of the veteran’s discharge paperwork.  If you do not have the original, or if you don’t want to send it to the VA (although they will return it to you once the application process is complete), then requesting a certified copy is the best solution.
One way to get this process started is to obtain free copies of the veteran’s DD-214 (the record of their separation from the military) and other military records through the eVetRecs system. The website is http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/.
Another way to obtain military records is to fill out Standard Form 180 (SF-180), which you can download from the following website: http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/standard-form-180.html. Once you have filled out this form and signed it, you must mail it to the location indicated on Page 2 of the form that corresponds to the location of the record you need.  If applying for the records of a deceased veteran, please remember to include a death certificate with the application.
Even if you’re not sure if you want to move forward with applying for veteran’s benefits, it is always best to be prepared. The day you are ready to file the application is not the time to realize that you can’t find Dad’s DD-214 that you thought was in his safe.  Being prepared ahead of time will allow you to avoid costly delays.
A final word of caution:  There is no cost to request certified copies of military records.  Some internet sites are claiming to get the records quickly for a small fee.  These companies do not have any inside way to request records quicker than you can request them and it is a waste of money to pay them to do so.  Keep your money and request the records yourself.

Ten Tips For A Successful VA Aid And Attendance Application

1. If you are filing for a parent and your parent has memory loss or dementia, provide your mailing address rather than your parent’s address so that you are sure to receive all correspondence from the VA. Have the information addressed to your parent, care of (“c/o”) your name.
2. Make sure to respond promptly to all requests for information from the VA. Putting off requests for more information or documentation could cause your claim to be denied.
3. Make sure you are eligible before your apply for benefits. You must have enough medical or care expenses to receive the pension and your assets must be below the required amount.
4. Fill out all blanks in the VA application completely. If a particular question does not apply to you, put “N/A” in the blank. Do not leave any item blank on the VA application. This could cause your claim to be denied.
5. Make sure to document your medical and/or care expenses completely. It is not enough to simply tell the VA what your care expenses are; you must show them that you are spending the money by providing items like invoices, bills and receipts for your expenses.
6. Make a copy of everything before you send it to the VA. If your application is lost or misplaced, you will be able to send it out again without having to redo the application.
7. The veteran or widowed spouse must sign the application. An agent who has power of attorney cannot sign the application in his or her place. If the applicant is only able to sign with an “X,” you will need two witnesses to also sign the application.
8. Make sure that doctor’s certificates are filled out properly. The veteran or spouse applying for the VA Aid and Attendance pension benefit must be medically needy in order to qualify. Make sure that the doctor does not neglect to list the veteran and/or spouse’s current diagnoses and conditions, making the claimant seem healthier than they actually are. Also, make sure that the doctor’s certificates are filled out completely and that there are not too many blank items on the form.
9. Make sure to give the VA information about your income and assets. The Aid and Attendance pension is calculated in part by using your gross monthly income. The VA must have proof of what this income is. Providing your annual Social Security and pension statements, as well as documentation for any assets you have that produce income (such as IRAs, CD’s, etc.) will greatly speed up the processing time of your application.
10. Always include a voided check with your application so that the VA can directly deposit your funds.

The Eligibility Verification Report

Each year, veterans or surviving spouses receiving the VA Aid and Attendance Pension must prove that they are still eligible to receive this VA pension benefit. To do this, they must submit a form called the Eligibility Verification Report (EVR). The EVR requires disclosure of the veteran or surviving spouse’s income, assets, and anticipated medical expenses for the current calendar year as well as actual medical expenses paid for the previous year.
Although it may seem tempting to put it off, completing this form as soon as possible is an important task. The deadline to complete the EVR is March 31st. If you miss the deadline, the VA may delay pension payments until you submit the EVR. Even worse, if you cannot prove that you or your family member still meets the eligibility requirements, the VA could discontinue the pension altogether.
In order to ensure that you can complete the EVR properly, it is important that you keep a record of all unreimbursed medical expenses throughout the year. This includes doctor’s visits, payments to caregivers, assisted living rent, and medications. If you don’t keep adequate records, you may end up reporting fewer expenses than you actually had causing the VA to reduce the amount of your Aid and Attendance pension.
Because the EVR can result in an adjustment of the pension amount or even a discontinuation of benefits, many veterans or their family members feel they need help completing the form. Attorneys and other professionals who are accredited with the VA can help you with the EVR in several ways. They can show you how to adjust assets to stay within the VA’s financial eligibility requirements, assist you with providing adequate documentation to support the EVR form, and answer any other questions or concerns you may have about the EVR. Seeking professional help with completing the EVR can be an important step in making sure that your loved one continues to receive the benefits they deserve.
For more information or to view the actual EVR form, you can visit http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0510-ARE.pdf.

How Do I Know If Someone Is Qualified To Help Me With My VA Application?

Applying for VA benefits can be both confusing and stressful. This is why it’s so important to make sure that the people who are helping you are both knowledgeable and qualified. Anyone can discuss VA benefits in general with a veteran. However, anyone who helps prepare an application for VA benefits or discuses specific information regarding a veteran’s claim must be accredited with the VA.
The VA recognizes three types of professionals who may become accredited with the VA: attorneys, agents, and representatives of service organizations. Those applying for accreditation must submit an application and must meet certain character requirements. Additionally, all professionals, except for attorneys, must pass an exam that tests knowledge about all types of veteran’s claims and benefits.
There is an exception for someone who wishes to help a veteran, on a one-time basis, with their application. For example, a daughter could help her veteran father with the application.
This system is in place so that veterans and their families receive quality assistance with their benefit claims. Unfortunately, we frequently hear of individuals or companies who aren’t accredited, but who claim to offer help with applying for VA benefits. Working with someone is not accredited is not advisable and can lead to problems getting the Veterans benefits you deserve.
For a better understanding of what types of assistance require accreditation, you can visit the VA Office of General Counsel at http://www4.va.gov/ogc/accred_faqs.asp.

What Is the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit?

”Aid and attendance” is a commonly used term for a little-known veterans’ disability income. The official title of this benefit is “Pension.” The reason for using “aid and attendance” to refer to Pension is that many veterans or their single surviving spouses can become eligible if they have a regular need for the aid and attendance of a caregiver or if they are housebound. Evidence of this need for care must be certified by VA as a “rating.” With a rating, certain veterans or their surviving spouses can now qualify for Pension.

The purpose of this benefit is to provide supplemental income to disabled or older veterans who have a low income or high medical costs. Pension is for war veterans who have disabilities that are not connected to their active-duty service. Pension is primarily intended for very low income veterans, but a special provision in how Pension is calculated can allow veterans or single surviving spouses with high income to also receive the benefit which may be as much as $1, 949 a month. This special provision kicks in for veterans who have ongoing and expensive long term care costs.

Aid and Attendance Pension benefit can pay up to $1,949 a month for qualifying long term care needs such as:

  • Family members who provide home care
  • Professional home care providers to come into your home
  • Assisted Living or Adult Day services
  • Nursing Home long term care
  • Home renovations for disability
  • Prescription drug costs
  • Insurance premiums
  • Diabetic or incontinence supplies
  • Other un-reimbursed medical expenses

If the veteran’s income exceeds the Pension amount, there is usually no award given, however, income can be adjusted for unreimbursed medical expenses, and this allows veterans with household incomes larger than the Pension amount to qualify for a monthly benefit. There is also an asset test to qualify for Pension.

If you have assets and a sizable income, you will most likely need and benefit from the services of a Veterans Benefits Consultant concerning what you need to do before you submit to the VA for an award. It is extremely important that assets that might be gifted or converted to income also meet Medicaid gifting rules in case the veteran or the surviving spouse may have to apply for Medicaid. The consultant can help avoid Medicaid penalties associated with reallocating assets.

Angela N. Manz is a veteran’s benefits consultant who understands the aid and attendance benefit as well as Medicaid rules. Angela N. Manz can be reached at 757-271-6275 or by going to www.manzlawfirm.com

Agent Orange Linked to Heart Disease and Parkinson's

Agent Orange linked to heart disease, Parkinson’s

By RICHARD LARDNER

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Medical researchers say there may be a link between exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam War and an increased chance of developing serious heart problems and Parkinson’s disease.

A study from the Institute of Medicine released Friday contains several caveats, but suggests there is a stronger connection than previously thought about the health risks to Vietnam veterans.

The research was sponsored by the Veterans Affairs Department, which will decide what to do with the findings. A VA spokeswoman said the department is reviewing the study to determine the full extent of the toxic effects of Agent Orange so exposed Vietnam veterans get the disability benefits they are entitled to.

American forces sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange and other defoliants over parts of Vietnam from 1962 to 1970. Military authorities used the defoliants in an attempt to massively prune away the dense jungle cover used by North Vietnamese forces to hide.

American troops and others exposed to the chemicals later complained of numerous health problems, however, and researchers are still trying to determine the scope of the damage.

The Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, is mandated by Congress to review every two years evidence about the effects of Agent Orange exposure.

To determine whether Vietnam veterans faced an increased chance of ischemic heart disease – a condition involving reduced blood supply to the heart – researchers reviewed several studies that showed links between higher exposure levels and greater incidence of the disease.

Other factors such as smoking, age, and weight can also play a role, they noted. Still, they said veterans exposed to the chemicals may be at greater risk.

The conclusion on Parkinson’s was based on a review of 16 studies that looked at herbicide exposures among people with the disease or Parkinson’s-like symptoms. But the study cautions the review was hindered by the lack of studies specifically investigating Parkinson’s rates among Vietnam veterans.

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Recent VA ruling regarding Lou Gehrig's disease

On September 23 2008, the Veterans Adminstration made a ruling regarding veterans who died due to Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.   Veterans with this disease will now be considered to have a service connected disabiliy.  For veterans who died of this disease, their widows will be eligible for a monthly death benefit due to the veteran’s service-connected death.  For more information, please see the Veterans Administration press release  at the web address below.
http://www.alsa.org/files/cms/News/Archive/2008/VA%20Release.pdf

Veteran's Benefits – Aid and Attendance

Many seniors are unaware that they may be eligible for the VA aid and attendance benefit.  This benefit is available to veterans over the age of 65, who served at least 90 days of active duty, with one day during a period of wartime.   They must have received a better than dishonorable discharge.  If a veteran, or his spouse, has recurring out of pocket medical expenses or needs assistance with daily living tasks (such as meal preparation, dressing, bathing, shopping, taking medications, etc.) he or she should consult an elder law attorney to determine whether they might qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit.
This benefit pays the veteran or spouse a monthly tax-free  pension amount.  A veteran is eligible for up to $1949 per month and a widowed spouse is eligible for up to $1056 per month in tax-free income.
In order to qualify, the veteran or widowed spouse must have recurring medical expenses or require personal assistance.  Medical expenses can include in-home care (including a child who is taking care of a parent either part-time or full-time), assisted living community costs, nursing home costs, prescription drugs, medical equipment, adult day care, insurance premiums, etc.
There are asset and income qualifications as well.  An experienced elder law attorney can assist the veteran or his widowed spouse in creating a plan for veteran’s benefits and determining the best method for preparing the application.  The elder law attorney will also discuss with the family how any application for VA benefits might affect future eligibility for Medicaid or other government benefits. It is imperative that steps be taken to adequately preserve the senior’s assets and to preserve eligibility for any other benefits the senior may require in the future.
Finally, the process of applying to the VA for this benefit can be very lengthy and difficult.  It is best to work with someone knowledgeable who can assist you in preparing your claim so that it is approved as quickly as possible.
The VA also requires that anyone giving advice to veterans about this benefit be accredited through the VA.  Before choosing a professional to assist you, make sure to ask if they are accredited and if they will help your family prepare a Medicaid or other long-term care plan at the time they are preparing the plan for VA benefits.
Angela N. Manz is an elder law attorney licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  She is accredited through Department of Veterans Affairs to assist veterans and their families in the preparation of claims for veterans benefits.
This blog post is not intended to provide legal counsel or to be a substitute for legal counsel. We assume no responsibility for any errors, omissions or any damage resulting from the use of this information.