Although a wide range of financial and care assistance are available to help America’s military veterans, billions of dollars in benefits are unclaimed each year. Many eligible veterans do not know these benefits programs exist, what they can be used for or how to apply, according to agingcare.com.
The problem is especially acute for veterans over age 65. The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs reports more than 12 million vets are in that category. The agency notes elderly veterans with complex needs “can receive geriatric and long-term care programs at home, at VA medical centers, or in the community.”
Unique needs of vets
Because of their experiences during service, many veterans have special needs and issues that can vary according to their time of service and their experiences after they left the military. These circumstances can include homelessness, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Regardless of the situation, all veterans deserve to receive compassionate, quality care as they approach the end of their lives.
Veterans assistance available
For veterans who are already drawing a VA pension, the Aid and Attendance program provides additional monetary assistance if they meet qualifying criteria such as:
- The individual needs help performing daily functions like bathing, eating or dressing
- The individual is bedridden
- The individual lives in a nursing home
- The individual has specified, uncorrectable vision issues
Housebound is another program that provides an increased monthly pension for vets living at home with a permanent disability.
No vet dies alone
We Honor Veterans is a volunteer program of National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the VA. It is designed to help hospice professionals meet the unique needs of elderly veterans. The cornerstone is the “No Veteran Dies Alone” program.
“Hospice staff may provide the last opportunity for veterans to feel that their service was not in vain, and that they are appreciated,” according to the organization’s website. “Simple acts of gratitude at the end-of-life can make up for a lack of appreciation or recognition during the veteran’s lifetime, especially for those veterans who were never welcomed home or thanked for their service.”
The program focuses on teaching volunteers how to ask respectful questions, how to listen compassionately and how to offer grateful acknowledgement. Developing those skills will allow them to comfort patients with a history of military service and possibly physical or psychological trauma.
A growing need
It is estimated that more than 600,000 veterans will die each year over the next decade. That means more veterans will die every year than died in all of World War II.
“Although there are no solid figures to indicate how many of these veterans die alone, the NVDA program is dedicated to making volunteers available to provide a comforting presence in the final weeks, days and hours of life as veterans and their families desire,” according to the No Veteran Dies Alone Resource Manual.
Other veterans’ benefits
A wide range of other benefits are available to qualifying vets and their families. These include survivor benefits available to spouses, children and parents, burial benefits and benefits available specifically to female veterans, the fastest-growing group in the veteran population.
As veterans approach the end of their lives, they deserve all of the benefits they are due for their selfless service. They also deserve the support of caregivers who understand their special needs.
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