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Navigating VA Benefits for Alzheimer’s & Memory Care for Florida’s Veterans

Veterans are the backbone of freedom in the United States. The sacrifices they’ve made, and continue to make, are essential for the freedom and independence that Americans enjoy today. As a nation, we owe an ongoing debt of gratitude to every man and woman who has served our country.

To help fulfill that debt, the Veterans’ Administration (VA) provides a number of benefits to those who have served. Health care is one of the most important benefits offered by the VA. The VA provides necessary inpatient hospital care and outpatient services that promote, preserve or restore the health of veterans. The VA also provides benefits for Alzheimer’s and memory care for veterans.

Securing these benefits can be challenging, however, even for seasoned vets who understand how to navigate the system. This guide will help veterans and their families navigate the process for receiving the support and benefits they need for Alzheimer’s disease and memory care.

Table of Contents

 

Florida is Home to Millions of Veterans

At 1,533,306 veterans, Florida has the third largest veteran population in the nation, according to the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Only California and Texas have more veterans, at 1,755,680 and 1,670,186 veterans, respectively.

Veterans living in Florida have protected our country in peacetime and through a number of wars. In all, there are 1,139,764 wartime veterans living in Florida and 393,541 peacetime veterans living in the state.

World War Two, Veteran

Florida veterans have fought in a number of wars:

  • 65,941 Florida veterans fought in World War II
  • 144,445 served in the Korean War
  • 496,526 are Vietnam-era veterans
  • 190,446 fought in the Gulf War

Florida’s veterans are a diverse crowd. There are 1,378,486 male veterans and 154,820 female veterans living in Florida. Most of Florida’s veterans are seniors. In fact, there are more than 773,000 veterans 65 years of age and over living in the Sunshine State.

Hillsborough County, home of Tampa, has the most veterans of any county in Florida and the veteran population in that county is growing. According to Hillsborough County, 98,307 veterans lived in the county in 2016, an astounding 5,135 veterans over 2015. These statistics do not include the active duty servicemen and servicewomen residing in the county.

Hillsborough County also leads the state in spending for federal veterans’ compensation and pension benefits. The VA provided more than $1.1 billion in benefits and programs in Hillsborough County during the 2016 fiscal year. Of that, $8,798,000 went for insurance and indemnities, and $476,061,000 was for medical care.

The VA provides a wide variety of benefits to veterans living in the area. These benefits include disability compensation, health, education and training, home loans, pensions, employment services and life insurance. While only a handful of these benefits apply to older veterans, they can still be tough to navigate.

 

About Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a brain condition characterized by memory loss and other cognitive problems severe enough to interfere with a person’s everyday life. The symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease develop when brain cells and the connections between brain cells degenerate and die. Eventually, the degeneration and death of cells destroys memory and causes the failure of other essential mental functions.

Loss of memory and other mental functioning can interfere with a person’s ability to perform normal activities, such as cooking a meal, even in the early stages of dementia. People with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia ultimately need complete assistance to perform even the most basic activities, such as eating or dressing.

While there is currently no cure for the condition, researchers have made great advances in understanding Alzheimer’s disease. Healthcare professionals now utilize a number of medications and management strategies to provide temporary relief from symptoms, which brings comfort to Alzheimer’s disease patients and their families. Eventually, though, veterans and other individuals with progressive memory problems require 24/7 care and supervision.

Roughly 10% of individuals over the age of 65 have the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Roughly 510,000 people in Florida had Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

According to sources cited by the VA, veterans are at an elevated risk for dementia with a 60% greater likelihood of developing dementia than those who did not serve in the military. The large number of veterans living in Hillsborough County means there are many Tampa residents at an elevated risk for dementia.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and the fifth leading cause of death in the nation among people ages 65 and older. One in three older adults dies from Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. In 2013, Alzheimer’s disease claimed the lives of 5,093 people in Florida.

Alzheimer’s disease is also a primary cause of poor health and disability; people with Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to have other chronic conditions that contribute to disability and poor health.

Alzheimer’s disease is an expensive condition. People with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias have twice the hospital stays as do older adults without the condition. Individuals with dementia are also more likely to require adult day care or extended care services. All of this adds up – the approximate lifetime cost of care for someone living with dementia in 2018 is $341,840. In 2016, Medicaid paid $2,336 million for the costs of caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease living in Florida.

Fortunately, the VA offers benefits to help veterans pay for Alzheimer’s disease and memory care.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Aid & Assistance

How do I apply for Aid & Assistance (A&A)?

Applying for A&A is as easy as gathering the proper documents, filling out the forms and mailing the completed application along with the documents.

What documents should I include?

  • Discharge/Separation Papers (DD-214). Visit archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records to request a copy of your military records as needed.
  • Copy of Marriage Certificate if you are a surviving spouse or you are filing for both the veteran and spouse
  • Copy of current Social Security award letter, which is the annual letter that notifies you of your monthly award for the following year
  • Net worth information. Be sure to include bank accounts, stocks and bonds, CDs, trusts, annuities, etc.
  • Proof of all income from your retirement and pensions, and any income from your investments, annuities, etc.
  • Proof of medications, medical bills, insurance premiums or any other medical expenses not reimbursed by Medicare or insurance
  • Physician statement that includes a current diagnosis and the patient’s medical status, prognosis, ability to care for self, ability to travel unattended, and other pertinent information about the patient’s Alzheimer’s disease, etc. Be sure to include the patient’s name and address. Submit a Nursing Home Status Form and Statement of Occupancy if the applicant is in an assisted care or residential care setting.
  • Banking information for direct deposit of monthly payments; be sure to include a voided check
  • List of all doctors and hospitals the applicant has visited in the past year

Can I start the application process while I get the documents together?

Yes, you can submit the one-page VA Form 21-0966, known as the INTENT TO FILE A CLAIM FOR COMPENSATION AND/OR PENSION, OR SURVIVORS PENSION AND/OR DIC. This gets the claim into the system, saving you time later.

How long will it take the VA to process and approve my application?

It depends on the workload at the VA regional office in your area. While it can take as little as six weeks and as long as 12 months from filing, most approvals take 6 to 8 months.

What are the current A&A benefit rates?

The current A&A benefit rates vary, but can provide up to:

  • $1,830 per month to a veteran
  • $2,903 per month to two veterans married
  • $2,169 per month to a veteran with a spouse
  • $1,176 per month to the surviving spouse of a veteran


Can I apply for the A&A pension if I am already receiving disability compensation from the VA?

No, you cannot receive both disability compensation and the A&A pension. You can file for the Improved Pension based on non-service connected health issues, however, in which the VA will pay for whichever benefit provides the most money to you.

 

Alzheimer’s and Memory Care Benefits for Vets

The Veterans’ Administration provides a full range of health care services to help veterans with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia get the care they need. Depending on the individual’s needs, VA services may include home-based primary care, home health aide and homemaker services, respite care to give family caregivers time away, adult day health care, care from outpatient clinics and inpatient hospitals, residential care, hospice care or palliative care.

The VA helps veterans with Alzheimer’s disease get the care they need. The administration also puts a priority on caregiver support and offers some benefits for surviving spouses who require assisted living for memory care or other health issues.

Hillsborough County offers free assistance at any of their Veterans Service Office locations. Veterans may call for an appointment or stop in at any of the Hillsborough County Veterans Service Office locations to speak with a qualified Veteran Services Officer.

The Aid and Attendance (A&A) helps ease the financial burden of care for vets who require the assistance of another person to perform everyday functions, such as bathing, dressing, feeding, going to the bathroom and other activities of daily living.

The A&A is a dependable pension, similar to Social Security. The recipient receives the benefit payment directly from the Department of Treasury and can use the funds to pay for in-home care, board and care, assisted living communities and private-pay residential facilities.

Veterans must meet certain criteria to qualify for A&A. Wartime veterans with 90 days or more of active duty with at least one day beginning or ending during a period of war may apply for the benefit. This veteran’s spouse is also eligible to apply, as long as the marriage ended as the result of the death of the veteran. The VA will award A&A benefits only to applicants who meet strict medical and financial qualifications.

Medical Qualifications for A&A Benefit

The applicant must require the aide and assistance of another person to perform normal activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing and undressing, and bathing. Wartime veterans or surviving spouses who have lost their eyesight may apply. Residents in an assisted living community or residential care setting due to mental or physical incapacity, such as with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, may apply.

The application process requires a medical evaluation from a physician to verify the applicant’s current medical conditions.

Appointment as Fiduciary

Normally, a person with Alzheimer’s disease or other significant illness would give Power of Attorney to a family member or friend. This Power of Attorney gives the trusted individual legal permission to manage the patient’s affairs. However, the VA does not recognize Power of Attorney. Instead, the VA approves an individual to act as a fiduciary.

Applicants for fiduciary must meet with a field agent and supply a completed VA Form 21-0845 form, which is the Authorization to Disclose Personal Information to a Third Party that gives fiduciaries permission to communicate with the VA on behalf of the patient.

Those needing assistance with the claim may file a VA Form 21-22: Appointment of Veterans Service Organization as Claimant’s Representative.

Financial Qualifications for Aid and Attendance Benefit


The applicant must have limited net worth and net income; the applicant must have a certain amount in out-of-pocket medical expenses. While the VA does not have a set maximum of assets, the rule of thumb is that the applicant must have less than $80,000 in assets on average, excluding the value of their home and vehicles. A worksheet to determine countable income is available.

 

Step by Step Guide for Applying for Benefits

Veterans and surviving spouses can determine their eligibility for A&A benefits by filling out an online form maintained by the VeteranAid.org website. Applicants can get help finding assisted living in their local area by calling VeteranAid.org at (866) 584-7191.

Once an applicant determines eligibility, he or she may submit a one-page VA Form 21-0966, known as the INTENT TO FILE A CLAIM FOR COMPENSATION AND/OR PENSION, OR SURVIVORS PENSION AND/OR DIC, to enter the claim into the system before applying. While optional, using this form can help establish a date for any retroactive payments after the VA awards the benefit. Applicants filing the Intent to File must submit the full application within one year to ensure the validation of VA Form 21-0966.

Step 1: Gather necessary documents

  • Discharge/Separation Papers (DD-214)
  • A copy of a Marriage Certificate is required, unless the veteran is applying for himself or herself only
  • Copy of the Death Certificate
    • Surviving spouses must submit a copy of the veteran’s Death Certificate
  • Copy of current Social Security award letter
    • Applicants must submit a copy of their most current Social Security award letter
  • Net worth information
    • Documents should detail information about the applicant’s including bank accounts, annuities, trusts, stocks, bonds, CDs and other financial resources.
  • Proof of income
    • Applicants must supply proof of income gained from retirement, pensions, interest income gained from investments, annuities and other sources.
  • Physician statement
    • Applications must include a physician’s statement that details the applicant’s current diagnosis, prognosis, medical status, name and address, ability to provide self-care, the individual’s ability to travel safely unattended and other pertinent health information.
  • Nursing Home Status Statement
    • Veterans or spouses who are in an assisted living or extended care setting must submit a Nursing Home Status Statement and a Statement of Occupancy from the long term care setting. The care setting must supply the Statement of Occupancy.
  • Proof of out-of-pocket expenses
    • Provide documents that detail out-of-pocket expenses, such as medications, medical bills, insurance premiums, and other medical expenses not reimbursed by insurance plans, Medicare, or Medicaid
  • List of physicians, medical professionals, medical equipment and treatments
  • Medical expense report
  • Court-appointed guardian documents
    • Any court-appointed guardian of the applying veteran or the surviving spouse with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory problem must submit a certified copy of the court order giving him or her guardianship of the applicant
  • Employment history
    • Submit an employment history if the veteran or surviving spouse is under the age of 65

Supply a list of all the physicians, practitioners, specialists and hospitals the applicant visited within the past year, along with billing statements that detail medical expenses. Medical expenses for Alzheimer’s disease care may include, but are not limited to:

  • Ambulance hire for transport
  • Home visits for medical treatment only
  • Home health services
  • Hospital expenses
  • Insurance premiums covering medical insurance
  • Lab tests
  • Neurology care
  • Nursing services for medical care
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical examinations
  • Physician care
  • Physical therapy
  • Prescriptions and medications
  • Psychiatric care
  • Speech therapy
  • Transportation to doctor appointments and for medical purposes; A&A will cover 20 cents per mile plus tolls and parking for the drivers, and it will cover the actual fares for buses, taxi or other modes of transportation

Step 2: Complete the necessary VA Application Form for filing

Complete VA Form 21-527EZ and/or VA Form 21-534EZ for Special Improved Benefits with Aid & Attendance.

Step 3: Mail the application

  • Store a copy of the completed application and supporting documents before mailing the application. Applicants in Florida should send their applications to:


Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
Attention: Philadelphia Pension Center
PO Box 5206
Janesville, WI 53547-5206

 

What to Expect after Filing for Aid & Attendance

Processing A&A applications usually takes between six and eight months. The Veterans Administration will issue and deliver a determination letter that tells applicants if they will receive the A&A benefits. Backlogs of claim processing may occasionally slow the approval and determination process.

Veterans and spouses may need to pay for care while waiting for the VA to approve their application and release funds. The VA will reimburse the applicant for payments dating back to the original filing date.

Applicants aged 90 or older may request expedition of the application process by including a cover letter noting their request with the application. The VA gives priority to veterans and surviving spouses who are aged 90 and older.

 

Tessera of Brandon

Tessera of Brandon is an assisted living and secured ValeoTM memory care neighborhood located near Tampa, Florida. Our dedicated memory care professionals help veterans living with Alzheimer’s or other memory impairments enjoy a rich, fulfilling life. At Tessera of Brandon, each resident’s legacy and passions are honored through custom programming designed to increase awareness, cognition and engagement; create joyful moments and connections; and reduce anxiety or agitation. Contact us today to learn more.

 

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