VA Benefits – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
By: Joanne Solometo – VA Case Manager

During my time with the Rothkoff Law Group, I can honestly say that I have seen the good, bad and ugly when it comes to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  I would like to take this time to explain.

First the good: I love my work because I get to give good news to families I have had the privilege to work with, your mom or dad has been approved for the VA benefit, you will have money each month to help pay for their care.  You can’t imagine the look of relief on their faces when these vital benefits come through.

Now the bad: The VA has made some recent changes regarding which unreimbursed medical expenses they will accepted.  Going forward, they will no longer consider payments for Independent Living Facilities as unreimbursed medical expenses.  Even if your family member is in an Assisted Living Community, it will be difficult to get approvals for benefits without a written statement from their physician stating your loved one need to reside in a facility that is providing assistance with their activities of daily living.

The VA’s definition of an activity of daily living is:  Basic self-care such as showering and bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, or getting out of a chair or bed transferring.  Even if a loved one has a severe case of dementia, they are a wander risk, can’t remember where they live or who they are, they may not be eligible to get the financial help they need if they can still independently manage what the VA considers to be their basic daily needs.

This change not only impacts the veteran, and surviving spouses, but the care communities as well.  If families cannot get the financial assistance to their loved ones in the communities that are equipped to provide a safe environment, we will have many more families taking care of their loved ones on their own.  This can cause significant stress and add financial burden to families.

I guess it’s time to address the ugly:  The amount of time the VA takes to process an application can be as long as a year or more.  I will admit that there are some occasions where applications seem to have wings attached and fly through the quagmire, but this is the rare exception.

If there is one bright spot in all of this, it is that the VA is trying to cut down on paperwork.  Each year a renewal form used to be required to keep the benefit coming.  The VA has decided to do away with the yearly renewal or EVR (Eligibility Verification Report).  This will hopefully free up some much needed personnel to work on actually getting applications processed.

I love what I do, I care about the families I work with, and will continue to do my very best to achieve our goal, getting VA benefits for our vets and surviving spouses.


About Joanne

Joanne is the Veterans Benefits Specialist for Rothkoff Law Group, elder law firm. Joanne comes to us with a wealth of personal experience in dealing with the elderly and their families. She is extremely knowledgeable in the area of VA pension benefits with aid and attendance. Joanne, her husband and their three children live in Cherry Hill. Joanne is an active member of her church where she volunteers.

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