Dementia, Alzheimer’s, & VA Aid and Attendance

As our population continues to age, many families are dealing with more than just the physical care of their loved ones. Many are dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This can be an emotional and financial drain on the family. The VA pension benefit is immensely helpful in covering the financial cost but there is little assistance with the emotional component. A good elder law attorney can help fill this void.

It’s a matter of being empathetic and listening to clients’ needs and concerns. An elder law attorney can offer sound guidance by advising on what is in the best interest of the senior(s) and the family as a whole, without being emotionally involved.

As many as 5.1 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. With the aging of the U.S. population, that number could more than double by 2050. To help with the staggering cost of care, the Obama Administration has included $26 million in the proposed 2013 budget. That money will go to education, outreach and support for families affected by the disease.  Also, $50 million will be available for cutting-edge Alzheimer’s research. Together, fiscal years 2012 and 2013 investment totals $130 million in new Alzheimer’s research funding – over 25 percent more than the current annual Alzheimer’s research investment.

In January 2011, President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which calls for an aggressive and coordinated national Alzheimer’s disease plan.  The Act establishes an Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services, which brings together some of the nation’s foremost experts on Alzheimer’s disease in the development of the national plan.

This additional research and funding can greatly assist families and caregivers dealing with the disease. Often the family members act as the caregiver and, typically, pay for the care out of their own pockets. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 15 million people fall into the role of unpaid caregiver for those living with Dementia. Add it all up and it comes to about 17 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $202 billion in 2010 alone.

This is one reason why the services of a knowledgeable VA pension planning attorney are so important. The VA pension benefit can help cover the thousands of dollars spent on unpaid medical care, as well as payment to the one caring for the parent.

Having dementia or Alzheimer’s can lengthen the approval process for VA pension benefits, since appointment of a fiduciary is necessary. Here is what to expect:

  • The VA will hold the retroactive payments until a fiduciary is named.
  • The VA will give the client 60 days to agree or disagree with their finding of incompetency.
  • The firm will send the VA form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim, and ask them to waive the 60 day period since there is no dispute with the claim of incompetency.  This is done in hope that it will speed up the application process.
  • The VA will contact the family and may send a representative to sit down and discuss the award. If they do, this can take 3 to 4 months minimum. Then, the retroactive payments are released for the client. Note that the monthly payments are not delayed; only the retroactive payments.

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