Need guidance for new widows benifits

Discussion in 'Surviving Spouse Application' started by littleaccent, Sep 21, 2015.

  1. littleaccent

    littleaccent Newbie

    My step father-in law died 2 weeks ago. We are trying to find help for my mother-in-law, as in what options she may have. Her husband was a Korean war veteran and they were married for 22 years.
    I don't know what to look for, to know where to get started. We know nothing about veterans benefits. And I mean nothing.

    My husband is her only child. He was not really welcome around while her husband was alive. Now that he's gone, we're stepping in as his 4 children have decided "their" parent is dead, so now she's our responsibility. Please don't judge us as this is a small piece of the story. We've done what we were allowed to do. I apologize for the back story, but I need y'all to understand, we're starting from scratch.

    They were getting about $1,400.00 from HIS social security, $400.00 from HER social security and $400.00 from HIS small pension. They were spending, in one way or another, every dollar they had incoming- every month. They have a house that has a home equity loan against it, that they also charge/withdraw against every month and just making payments back. Social security took back his last check and her appointment to get hers adjusted isn't until next month. So for two months at least, she only has $400.00 coming in and about $1100.00 going out- for meds, drs, insurance, household utilities, etc. She does get medicaide or care, not sure off the top of my head which. There are NO assets of ANY kind- unless you count her car that is barely running and the house that is worth about $50,000.00- and a $15,000.00 line of credit against it. His burial was covered by a life insurance policy and there's nothing left over.

    And we're noticing she is going to need some assistance for day to day things, but not into a home as of yet. We would feel better that she has someone checking on her everyday, making sure her meds and such are administered correctly. We're pretty sure they're not being taken exactly right. We don't know how the two of them were getting along by themselves up to this point.

    Does she qualify for ANY of the assistance mentioned on this website?
  2. vetadmin

    vetadmin Administrator Staff Member


    The best advice I can give you is for you to go back and read through the website. Yes, it's a lot, but you truly need to have a better understanding of this pension, eligibility, how to apply and the criteria.

    Her car and the house do not count as assets.

    Until she has a set amount established from the SS adjustment, you don't know what her monthly income is going to be.

    This pension is for those who require daily care for living. From what you have shared it sounds like medication management and a daily check would be brief and not much in the way of expense.

    Having said that, you should educate yourself, gather necessary documents to have on-hand in the event that moving forward with application is appropriate.
  3. littleaccent

    littleaccent Newbie

    Thank you.
    I've been reading thru the website today. And definitely see that we are just beginning to understand her needs. The more time spent with her, the more we learn what's dropped between the cracks for her. And we don't want to not do all that we can to figure this out for her.
    I have a feeling we'll be browsing here a lot in the future.
  4. littleaccent

    littleaccent Newbie

    Things are a bit worse off than we initially thought. The more time we're spending with her, the more we see she is not capable of living on her own.
    We are looking into an assisted living home in her home town. They brought up the A & A and said we need to print off the application and fill it out and they will get it processed. Is there a link directly to the application we need? Does anyone have experience with the assisted living home submitting the paperwork? It sounds great as they have done many of these before and know how to get it processed. But is this an immediate mis-step on our part?
  5. Kaylin

    Kaylin Hero Member Staff Member


    If you visit this page here:
    it gives complete instructions on how to apply for the A&A pension benefit. Make sure once you have the application ready to be sent, be sure to mail Return Receipt, keep a complete copy for your records. Do not send original Discharge Papers. Send a "certified" copy of them. Same with the Marriage License.

    I hope this helps and best of luck in your application. It can be a challenging process, but many folks on here that have asked questions seeking help on the forums have had great success stories in receiving the Aid and Attendance benefit funds they need to help with assisted living care.
  6. Jandy

    Jandy Jr. Member

    Others will probably give you good technical advice, but I wanted to briefly share with you my story since it's very similar. My mother died when I was a teenager, Dad remarried a woman who was difficult. My siblings and I were not much welcome around my stepmother. Her family was the inner circle, so we had to keep our distance for 29 years (though miraculously, we still maintained a very good and loving relationship with Dad on the sly)....Then, my stepmother died suddenly a year ago, at which time, her children walked away from my dear father who had been so nurturing and good to them. It has been left to my siblings and me to sort out the mess--loans, lines of credit, Dad's retirement account gutted, much of it in order to help her family members. We were unaware of all of it. It has been so heartbreaking.

    My brother moved in with Dad after stepmother's death to take care of him, but we finally had to put Dad in asstd living facility (ALF) a couple months ago. His dementia is worsening, he cannot prepare meals, can't manage his meds, can't drive, can barely walk, can't shower himself, has major toileting issues, etc.

    I decided to apply for A&A (Dad's a Korean War vet). I filed a 21-0966 ("Intent to File a Claim") with the VA the day after Dad entered ALF--this starts the clock so any awarded benefits will be retroactive to that date. I hope to mail out the full application in the next couple weeks. Dad's Social Security + a tiny annuity are not enough to pay the monthly ALF bill (especially since a good chunk of it goes to paying the loans he and my stepmother took out). For now, the shortfall is made up by the proceeds of my stepmother's small life insurance policy with Dad as the beneficiary (which her kids fought us for; can you tell I have bitterness I desperately need to work through?!!). After that's gone, my siblings and I will have to come up with the money ourselves until we hear from the VA about the application (it can take 8-10 months on average to get a determination letter back from the VA).

    As Kaylin wrote, check out info there re what the benefit is, who's eligible, and exactly what documents are required. Also dig into this board and read the posts....As for whether to apply for A&A yourself or get the ALF to do it, I'm sure others will chime in, but there's no reason you can't do it yourself. Also, I understand (and someone correct if I'm wrong) if someone else does it, you are out of the loop and can't call to inquire about the application, etc. ...For me, I just preferred to keep control; I figured no one is going to care as much about this application as I do.

    I would advise you to start getting your ducks in a row now. In those early months after my stepmother died, I was just trying to get a handle on their finances. It has taken me longer than I thought it would to pull together all the supporting documentation for A&A so the earlier you start, the better. Do your research and then come on back and ask questions. I wish you and your family good luck.
  7. littleaccent

    littleaccent Newbie

    Thank you for your reply!! We always feel like we're bad people when we explain that we weren't welcome in my in-laws day to day life. We KNOW it sounds bad, believe me, we feel the shame of not being "good enough" to be in their inner circle. Your story is so similar to ours. The only light for all this, it there wasn't any money for the other side's kids to take. They didn't have more than it took for them to live month to month. And now, there's less without his soc sec and small pension. We're covering the shortfalls at the moment, but we cant continue to do so. We thought we'd have more time to get this together. But she needs day to day help now. And we live two hours away. We're driving every other day or so now, but again, can't keep doing that. I know she wanted to stay i the house. I can't imagine how they were getting along cause I do know he wasn't in the best of health nor steady on his feet. How she was doing things for the two of them- it's sad to think they were both in this shape. And no matter at our hard feelings, I wouldn't want any elderly person to need help like they must have. And yet, my mom in law not once called us. We're doing what we have to, because it's the right thing to do and hoping the resentment and hurt feelings will ease up some.
    We've got a home picked out that we actually like cause they transition from light - full assistance in the same facility. Less stress on her to have to move as she needs more help. And obviously I trust the home to take care of our mom in law, so I don;t know what the hesitation I have in turning over the paperwork straight to them- but something is telling me that we should keep control of it.

    I'm reading this site- everything- even if I don't think it applies to us. Because I'm afraid I might need to know, that I don't know I do. I'm on "the" or maybe "a" va website and want to be sure I'm in the right place. I think we're going to have to start literally with requesting a copy of his discharge papers before we can get this started. I know he can get a headstone from them and that too requires the discharge papers before we can request that. No matter the hard feelings, everyone should have a marker for where they're laid to rest. Its just one more thing on the list to take care of.

    I can't thank you enough for sharing your experience. We've felt pretty alone and the more we realize what we DON'T know about their lives, the worse we felt.
  8. littleaccent

    littleaccent Newbie

    Thank you!!
    I was on: "" and didn't think I was in the right place. I'm heading over to where you sent me.
    I do know we're going to have to start from the beginning of getting a copy of his discharge papers. It's the first ting on our list as looks like we can't do anything with out having those.
    And boy is the list growing longer every day. But it is what it is and we're doing what we can. It's not been quite a month, but it's consumed our lives, it seems, already. :(
  9. Kaylin

    Kaylin Hero Member Staff Member


    You are most welcome! It can be a long process, but it is well worth it. Just be sure to follow the advice of that "How to Apply" page on I mentioned and keep a copy of everything you send to the VA.
  10. Jandy

    Jandy Jr. Member

    Littleaccent, yes it's an unfortunate situation to find yourself in. I would have never dreamed this would be my reality when I was growing up. I had a really normal, supportive & loving family; I think I always judged dysfunctional families a bit, wondering what the heck was the matter, why couldn't they get over it. In my stepmother's defense, she was desperately unhappy and perhaps had a personality disorder. She was fearful and paranoid around everyone but her own children (no one from my family was welcome, but also no friends, neighbors, etc). It's very, very sad. But as I said, she was damaged--she did the best she could.

    My job now is to take care of my dear father, just as it is with you and your MIL. We want Dad to be comfortable and content. Part of that is predicated on this A&A benefit, and I am incredibly grateful for it. Yes, it's a hassle to apply for--there are many hoops to jump through, the forms seem antiquated, and it takes a ridiculous amount of time to get a decision--but I'll take it. I'll do whatever I have to do.

    It's good you've found an ALF you like--that is so important. And you're right--get a copy of your step FIL's discharge papers. To be eligible for A&A, he needs to have had at least 90 days of active service, 1 day beginning or ending during a period of War. Here's a link for the dates for the periods of war, as set by Congress: .....I made the request for Dad's records online thru the National Archives website (link is on site, but here it is: ). I understand it usually takes less than a month on average to receive the papers, but not always. It took 3 months to get Dad's papers; his were part of the records lost in the big 1973 records fire, and I assume (?) that's why it took so long.

    And btw, if it's any consolation, I knew nothing about Veterans benefits before I started, either. You'll figure it out. I'll try to check back regularly and answer any questions I can, although many here know much more than I do. You are a love to be concerned--I know your husband must appreciate it, especially with no siblings to lean on. He has lost a lot, just as I have--in fact, everyone loses in a situation like ours. But now we have the opportunity to take care of our loved ones in a very important way. Again, good luck to you and your family.
  11. littleaccent

    littleaccent Newbie

    UPDATE: We have my M-I-L in an assisted living home now. We're making do with her social security and paying the difference till the A&A request is processed. The Assisted Living home put us in contact with the local Veterans Office and that helped a lot. They are used to working together and both were extremely helpful in walking us thru the process.

    If it wasn't for this forum, we wouldn't have had the information together and it would have taken so much longer!!! We are now 1 month into the "waiting to be processed" stage- but at least we're started.

    Fingers crossed all goes well.
  12. littleaccent

    littleaccent Newbie

    UPDATE: we've gotten my M-I-L first A&A check!!! It's taken from our first application in October till Febuary for approval. While it felt like forever, I think we were still under the usual time we were told to expect.
    And it couldn't have come at a better time. We are drained after helping fill the gap between her income and expenses these last 6 months. :(
    We have a fiduciary form to return and then I believe we're done till the end of the year...? I think then we're expected to complete an update of expenses in case something has changed....?
    But it's here and we're so very grateful to have found this forum to know what our options were and how to get started. Because of the wealth of knowledge shared here, we had everything together for the app and it could move forward without hiccups.
  13. vetadmin

    vetadmin Administrator Staff Member


    Congratulations and getting through the process!

    Be sure to include the statement from the site about waiving the 60 days to not have issue with their finding incompetency.

    You will not need to update the VA on anything unless there is a change in expenses, facility, etc.

    The last process for you otherwise will be getting through the Fiduciary process.

    Again, congrats and thanks for sharing your good news!

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