Got it! Woo hoo!

Discussion in 'Share Your Personal Experience' started by gmasjo, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. gmasjo

    gmasjo Newbie

    I'm planning to come back and post a more detailed account of what I submitted and how it went, but I just wanted to share that my 94 year old grandmother received a letter from the VA today telling her that she got the pension! What a relief! This site and all of the helpful posts were instrumental in my getting it done.

    I submitted the application in mid March (received March 21) and the letter we received was dated August 18, so about 5 months. I know that's not bad, though it felt like torture to wait. And when I went to her online banking account, 4 months worth of accrued benefits had been deposited a few days ago for April through July.

    I definitely want to pay it forward by sharing more details soon, but for now a big THANK YOU for all of your help and support! This will make a big difference in my grandmother's life, and lifts a huge weight off of our shoulders.
    Kaylin likes this.
  2. Kaylin

    Kaylin Hero Member Staff Member

    That is awesome news! Thank you for coming back to tell us your success story, I hope you will share the complete story on how it worked out for your grandmother.
  3. gmasjo

    gmasjo Newbie

    So here's what I did when applying for my grandmother. Sorry it's so long....Hopefully this will help someone else going through the process. I know that reading through the posts here was a HUGE help to me while I was working on the application.

    On March 18, I sent the following to the Philadelphia Pension Maintenance Center (we live in Georgia). Everything was in my grandmother's name, and forms were signed by her. Mailing address used was her home address, but email address and phone number were mine. Her mental faculties, while not what they used to be, are pretty good, and although I handle all of her financial stuff, I knew I could rely on her to tell me about any written correspondence that she received. I also did not want to go through the fiduciary process, and I didn't think it was necessary either. She is able to read, sign, and understand the forms I provided her.

    1. VA Form 21-534EZ, Application for DIC, Death Benefits, and/or Accrued Benefits
    2. VA Form 21-0845, Authorization to Disclose Personal Information to a Third Party (naming me)
    3. Copy of death certificate for my grandfather (the veteran).
    4. NA Form 13038 with official seal, certifying my grandfather's military service. (His records were among those destroyed during a fire in 1973, so when I requested the DD-214, they provided this document instead. They sent me two certified copies, so I included one, along with a copy of the letter explaining why there was no DD-214, and that this document could be used for any official purpose.)
    5. Letter mentioned above that indicates that NA Form 13038 verifies my grandfather's service.
    6. Copy of my grandfather's Enlisted Record and Report of Separation. These were copies of documents that my grandmother had kept since the mid-1940s. I didn't know if they would be considered "official" anymore, but I decided that it couldn't hurt to include them.
    7. Copy of my grandfather's Honorable Discharge certificate. (Another document that my grandmother had saved from the 40s)
    8. Notarized copy of my grandparents' marriage certificate. I had an old certified copy, but of course I didn't want to mail it because it was the only one I had. When I attempted to go online and get another certified copy, I had trouble because they insisted that because the certificate was so old, that I didn't want vital records, and kept sending me to some genealogy research kind of thing. I didn't want to delay things any further, and I didn't really want to get my grandmother involved unless I had to, so I took a chance and asked a friend who is a notary to notarize that the copy was an exact duplicate of the original.
    9. Printed bank account summaries from bank website showing checking and savings account balances and transactions. (Totaling about $10,ooo).
    10. Statement showing current value of my grandmother's IRA, about $15,000, as well as the distribution amounts for 2015 and 2016.
    11. Statement showing current value of stock owned, about $5,000.
    12. Social security benefit statement for 2016.
    13. Income tax return for 2015, showing taxable income, as well as supporting documentation (1099s, etc) and a Tax History Report (generated by TurboTax) showing income for the previous 5 years.
    14. VA Form 21-2680, Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance, signed by my grandmother's doctor. (I dropped off some yummy treats for the doctor and his staff to say thank you for all of the help with the forms...I figured it couldn't hurt, right? I also gave them two versions: one blank, and one that I had pre-filled with answers to questions I thought he might not know, like her daily routine and some more of the specifics for how she needs help. He was happy to sign the copy I filled in. I had highlighted the parts that he needed to sign and fill in. I also attached a post it note with a couple of things for him to know.)
    15. Assisted living Status Statement, signed by my grandmother's doctor, and an administrator at the assisted living facility. (I crossed out the words "nursing home" and replaced them with "assisted living facility.")
    16. VA Form 21-0779, Request for Nursing Home Information in Connection with Claim for Aid and Attendance, signed by the assisted living facility's registered nurse in charge. (I crossed out the words "nursing home" and replaced them with "assisted living facility.")
    17. Statement of Occupancy/Monthly statement from ALF, signed by an administrator, followed by additional statements indicating monthly charges for assisted living.
    18. VA Form 21P-8416, Medical Expense Report, showing medical expenses for 2015, followed by the following documentation demonstrating those expenses:
    19. Prescription Drug Summary from health insurance company for December 2015, showing out-of-pocket drug expenses for the year.
    20. Statement from hospital showing expenses for her broken hip and shoulder last year.
    21. Statement from health insurance company showing monthly premium.
    22. An excel spreadsheet of out of pocket medical costs from January to October 2015 (when her insurance provider changed), followed by printouts from the insurance company's website detailing these expenses. (Humana's website was great...all of this information was readily available.)
    23. A statement from the second insurance company reflecting November and December 2015 claims (not included in the excel spreadsheet.)
    24. Statements from medical transport companies showing amounts spent in 2015 for travel to and from medical appointments.
    25. A blank deposit slip for my grandmother's checking account.
    26. A cover letter written in the first person from my grandmother, summarizing her situation, medical issues, indicating her age, and asking for expedited processing due to her advanced age.

    The cover letter also included this numbered list, and I then went through all of the documentation and numbered them in the upper right corner to match the list. I also highlighted important numbers and items I wanted the VA to notice. I bound the entire thing using a comb binding so that everything would stay together and in order. I scanned the entire document in order into my computer and saved it as a PDF file (which I also backed up) so I had an exact copy of what I sent. I sent it via USPS using signature confirmation, and printed out the tracking information, including the signature verification that they sent me so I had proof that it had arrived.

    It was received on March 21. A letter was sent on March 31 indicating that they had received the application, and giving us a file number. We received additional form letters in May and July saying that they were still processing the application.

    At the end of July, my grandmother received a letter saying that they needed additional information to complete the claim. The death certificate that I had sent had a section that was covered up by the state of Florida when they imaged the certificate. This covered up the cause and manner of death. The copy I have has a piece of paper with some Florida statute written on it that is stapled over that section of the death certificate. I debated whether or not to remove that paper when I made a copy for the VA. I left the paper in place. Evidently that was the wrong decision. I carefully removed the stapled paper, made a new copy of the death certificate, put the file number at the top, and mailed it in, along with the "VCAA Notice Response" that was included in the letter. This form tells the VA that I have included all of the information that I have and that they could begin considering the claim. They said that filling this out might help expedite the claim.

    Yesterday my grandmother called me to tell me that she'd gotten a letter saying that they had made a decision in her favor. It included the award amount and start date, and said that she would receive a payment covering the initial amount within 15 days, and that the payment begins the first day of the month following the effective date. The effective date listed was March 21, the date the application was received. When I looked in her bank account, the initial payment covering April through July had already been deposited!

    According to the letter, she was granted survivor's pension benefits, plus an additional allowance for aid and attendance, but that "accrued benefits" and DIC were denied. (We hadn't even applied for those, so not sure what's up with that. I have a copy of the application that clearly has only "death pension" checked off. But I guess it doesn't really matter.) There is a summary of the evidence used, which included all of the VA forms, the service records, the marriage and death certificates, the tax and financial documents, and the assisted living statement. It looks like they did not include her prior medical expenses, just her assisted living expenses and her medical insurance and medicare fees. But that was enough to reduce her countable income to $0.

    Whew. I think that's everything. Sorry this was so long, but I know that when I was filling out the application myself, I wanted every piece of information I could find that might help me. So hopefully this information will help someone else in the future. I would never have been able to get all of this done without the help of this site and everyone who posted great information; I was so overwhelmed in the beginning, and this site made all the difference. The pension will be so helpful for my grandmother's quality of life as well as her anxiety level...she was lying awake at night wondering how she would continue to pay for her care when she ran out of money.

    So thanks again everyone, and good luck to those who are still waiting!!
    Sunshine and Kaylin like this.
  4. eifan115

    eifan115 Newbie

    Thank you for posting. This is encouraging. I submitted my mom's application in May. It was received on May 26 and since then we have had one letter stating they are still processing it. This gives me hope that maybe we won't have too much longer to wait! Congratulations on all your hard work paying off!
    Kaylin likes this.
  5. gmasjo

    gmasjo Newbie

    Thanks! I hope your mom's approval comes through soon! Good luck!
    Kaylin likes this.
  6. mred2008

    mred2008 Newbie

    Great work and congratulations, gmasjo!

    I don't know if I was as thorough but did include everything on the list made available to me upon my mother entering assisted living and took it to the County VA office . I wish I had thought to look for a forum such as this earlier) The clerk there sent it on it's way in early February (also in PHILA region) and after the acknowledgement letter I received bimonthly delay apology form letters and sat back, waiting for time to pass. Then, in June, I got a letter stating they needed income verification, even n though I knew that was included, and sent it off dutifully, inspired by the wording regarding marking the form to be expedited. I receive an acknowledgement letter for that, making it sound like I had started the process in June instead of February. I wait and hope for expedited processing as funds dwindle, and get a letter in early August stating a death certificate and discharge record is needed (also, definitely in the Feb package) I try and call to vent, and after a half hour hold, am informed they cannot look into it because the don't have the military branch (How do you even make a file without any of this?) so, that is where I stand right now, having sent those records to the Philly office in Wisconsin?
  7. krissy

    krissy Newbie

    I just wanted to thank you for your detail list of what you included to get your approval.....because I used it as a guide for filing for my grandparents and it was approved as well! I filed in early November and requested expedited processing since they are both over 90, and we received a letter back in mid-December stating their approval and the first payment was received in the last couple of weeks.

    Thank you again!!!
    Kaylin likes this.
  8. Kaylin

    Kaylin Hero Member Staff Member

    That is awesome news, Krissy! So happy to hear of this success story. Thank you for sharing.
  9. gmasjo

    gmasjo Newbie

    Krissy, that is wonderful! I'm so glad that you were successful and that I was able to help in some way.
  10. Sunshine

    Sunshine Newbie

    Thank you so much for posting this list of the forms you submitted. I used it as a checklist to make sure our application was complete. Eventually, we were successful in getting Mom a VA Benefits award for "Entitlement to Survivors Pension with Entitlement to Aid and Attendance" payable from December 1, 2016. We couldn't have done it without the information that we found on and your post.
    Kaylin likes this.
  11. gmasjo

    gmasjo Newbie

    This makes me so happy. You've very welcome...I'm glad I was able to be helpful!
    Kaylin likes this.

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