Millions of elderly U.S. veterans are unaware that they qualify for benefits that could supplement their monthly incomes by hundreds of dollars. In fact, one study showed that 69 percent of senior-citizen veterans haven’t learned about benefits that could potentially make a huge difference in quality of life. If you’re a veteran aged 65 or older – or love someone who is – here’s what you need to know.
Low-income wartime veterans may be eligible for tax-free benefit payments.
- A minimum of 90 days of active-duty service, with at least one day during a period of wartime.
- WWII: December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
- Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
- Vietnam War: August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975
- Gulf War: August 2, 1990 through a date yet to be set by Congress, AND
- 65 or older, OR
- Totally and permanently disabled, OR
- Receiving skilled care in a nursing home, OR
- Receiving Social Security disability insurance, OR
- Receiving Supplemental Security income
For basic pension benefits, applicants can be healthy but do have to meet income limits (as set by Congress).
The housebound benefit is an additional tier of the pension income. Eligible applicants include those who meet the requirements for the basic pension and also need regular assistance with day-to-day activities.
Aid and attendance
To be eligible for the aid and attendance benefit (which is in addition to the basic pension benefit), applicants must meet the requirements for the basic pension benefit and must also need assistance with normal activities on a daily basis.
Senior veterans may also qualify for no-cost or low-cost health care. The amount of co-pay, if any, is generally determined by means of testing. However, there are some groups of veterans that automatically qualify for no-cost coverage:
- Purple Heart recipients
- Medal of Honor recipients
- Those who have a service-related disability
- Recipients of pension benefits
- Those who served in a Theater of Operations for five years after discharge
- Those who served in Vietnam from January 9, 1962 through May 7, 1975
- Those who served in the Persian Gulf from August 2, 1990 through November 11, 1998
- Those who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1967
- Those who have been qualified as catastrophically disabled
- Those who meet means-testing requirements
Not only are many veterans missing out on the benefits they’re entitled to, but their spouses are, too. To be awarded benefits as a veteran or as a veteran’s surviving spouse, you can apply online using the VA’s eBenefits form. If you need assistance in navigating the complex application process, contact a trained and certified assistant. Regardless of the option you choose, just make sure you don’t leave money sitting on the table. You worked far too hard and honorably to let it go.