By Donald Lachman, Special Projects Coordinator and Andrea Talmadge, Regional Coordinator
Steve and Carol struggled for several years trying to resolve a possible $68,000 overpayment related to Veterans Affairs (VA) pension benefits received by John, their 96-year-old father and WWII Veteran. John is blind, deaf, and immobile due to a series of strokes he experienced in 2019 and required an increasing level of care. A major financial resource supporting his daily care needs is the VA Aid and Attendance pension.
This valuable needs-based pension is available to Veterans who served during a period of war, as well as their surviving spouses, age 65 years and older. This pension offers financial aid to help offset the cost of required care for eligible Veterans who need assistance with the daily activities of living including bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and transferring. It is often an underutilized resource because many applicants fail to adjust their annual income to reflect the financial drain of recurring healthcare expenses affecting needs-based eligibility.
John’s family promptly complied with the VA’s request to provide additional information. At this time, the VA, like most organizations across our nation, was experiencing the dramatic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on staffing and programming. Steve, himself a Vietnam Veteran, and his wife, suddenly found their own lives complicated by a diagnosis of COVID-19. They struggled to recover from the virus while also attending to their father’s challenging health and financial needs. The circumstances and conditions created by COVID-19 placed undue stress on all parties.
Steve contacted WAServes, WestCare Washington’s Veteran-specific coordinated case management program for guidance. After reviewing a box of related documents, WestCare staff recommended that the family team up with Senator Patty Murray’s Director of Veterans Services, Marjan Didra, to work with the VA and advocate for a humanitarian waiver of the alleged debt. This is exactly the action that was initiated by all parties as they joined forces to help this elderly WWII Veteran.
Seven weeks later, Steve and Carol received the much hoped for news from Marjan, as well as official notification from the VA approving debt relief. Additionally, Ms. Coy with the VA informed the family that she was personally attending to an increase in their elderly father’s VA pension award. Again, even with the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to experience the best in people and organizations. Thank you, Senator Murray, Marjan Didra, and Ms. McCoy with the VA for transforming the lives of Veterans!