Not So Easy After All

When I began my mission to bring the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit to national attention 3 years ago, I honestly thought it would be a pretty easy thing to do.  I naively  thought that if I simply sent out tons of emails and letters to all major media outlets they would have responded with “How quick can we get this story out there”? 

“Millions missing out on up to $22,000 annually in tax-free money to offset the costs of care – Put it on the front page of every newspaper, broadcast it on the morning and evening news, and put it on the airwaves. Thanks for the tip we’ll get right on this!”

That train of thought would be more like something out of a fairytale, and is not the way it went down.

Obviously I went for the big guns first thinking they would be the best bet.  That thought fits into the first part of the fairytale, so I then started shooting for the folks who maybe needed a rating’s boost and would be thrilled to lead with the story – Chapter two of the fairytale.

I have been asked the question hundreds of times “Who all have you contacted trying to get the word out”?  Just to give you an idea of what lengths I have gone to with little to no response, here is a short list in no particular order of folks I have told how crucial the Aid and Attendance pension is and the difference it can make. It is a rather impressive list of those who chose to do nothing with the information and did not find it newsworthy. 

Many of these folks have been contacted several times in hope they would be more receptive or reconsider – Part three of the fairytale.

  • AARP (this was a no brainer or so I thought) No takers here.
  • Former VA Secretary James Nicholson
  • Senator John McCain
  • Senator John Warner
  • NBC Nightly News – some success with Trading Places segment
  • ABC
  • CBS
  • 60 Minutes
  • Face the Nation
  • Meet the Press
  • Dateline
  • Fox News
  • Bill O’Riley
  • Geraldo – wild card – generally will take on offbeat subject matter – Nope
  • Oliver North
  • Leslie Stahl – I watched Leslie do a piece on kangaroos instead
  • Arianna Huffington
  • Joni Evans – wowowow.com
  • Today Show
  • Oprah
  • NY Times – actually had someone who needed the benefit but no story ran
  • Katie Couric – Free Speech – wrote and called
  • Lynn Doyle – It’s Your Call
  • Larry King
  • Dennis Miller
  • Dr. Phil
  • The View
  • Miami Herald
  • Montel Williams
  • Bob Shaffer
  • Diane Sawyer
  • Dana Priest – Washington Post
  • Every major and minor radio talk show outlet
  • Shawn Hanitty
  • Michael Savage
  • Dennis Prager
  • George Nory
  • Imus
  • Dave Berns
  • National Public Radio
  • The Whitehouse Project

Read over this list again and let it really sink in what each one of these names represents individually let alone collectively.  Keep in mind that this is just the heavy hitters and no where near the total number of individuals and organizations contacted

I think it is fair to say that most names on this list won’t ever have to wonder how they are going to be able to afford to take care of their family member.

How many stories do you think come across their desks that represent an opportunity to make a difference for millions?  To change lives for the better?  To give someone their dignity later in life when they are frail and less able to do for their self?  To help lessen a financial burden placed on family members, and to be able to afford a better quality of care.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being shocked that no one felt they had an obligation either morally or otherwise to step up accordingly given their positions and platforms.  But the question that really begs to be answered is “why”? 

I’d welcome anyone of them to enlighten me to that answer and to get their name off this list.

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6 Comments

  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Zellie

    Hi, Debbie, YOU are a hero…I just found your site today….I appreciate all you are trying to do, convey, educate, and share. Thank YOU!

    I also went through a whole lot to try to get my Dad A&A….after reading your story, I made it through the maze faster…but it was due to God’s help because I hit so many road blocks but I was too ignorant to stop…very intimidated, but kept pressing forward…I ended up getting help from the Texas Veterans Commission at the last minute…to push the original application through…this is an organization that is there to help, but I have to confess even they stated they didn’t think my Dad was eligible, but my sister in Florida kept insisting he was, so I kept pressing on….I didn’t agree for them to be his contact…”I” wanted to be my Dad’s advocate…..My Dad is 81 1/2, I finally got the application accepted on May 6th, I got his approval letter on August 6th…WE ARE SO THRILLED….what a blessing for my Dad and us! It is not a lot nor half the maximum but it is something…and it will allow us to continue to take very GOOD care of our Dear Blessed Best Dad in the Whole Wide World! That’s how much we love him…and I know millions of children love their parents the same way…so don’t give up…get as much paperwork complete up front…I got the doctor’s letter, I typed up a list of all out of pocket expeses paid with receipts, I did the form where they can talk to me, all of it…and sent it in…I got one 30 day request for more information, which I couldn’t get to them until the 30th day, which I sent return receipt…which they ended up ignoring, or not using for their determination…I was AMAZED to hear back so soon….anyway, just wanted to say thank YOU, and tell a little of my story…I, too, was sidetracked by the lawyers offering to help me…one lawyer wanted to KNOW ALL about my Dad’s private affairs, and said they charge $8,000 to help with the forms…..I know they aren’t allowed to charge, but they wrap up their helping with a fee, or handle his funds like you say, or something…BUT my Dad didn’t have enough assets for them to MESS with him, thank GOD, or I might have fallen for that BS! Anyway, that’s all I can think of to share with everyone…DO NOT GIVE UP!

  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Debbie

    Zellie,

    Thank you for such kind words about my efforts, and for taking the time to share your experience.

    I am so glad to know that you kept pushing forward and didn’t give up. Don’t overlook that as your dad’s expenses may increase, you can submit a VA form 21-4138 Statement in Support of Claim showing the increases that would allow for a higher rate be awarded.

    If you are ever not sure about something, check out our forums for they are a virtual library, and an incredible resource.

    From one daughter to another who adored her dad, I’m glad it all worked out for your dad.

  • Posted November 3, 2011

    M.L.

    Hello Debbie,

    This summer my 77 year old father was moved into a VA nursing home. He suffers from multiple myaloma,and is unable to walk or dress himself. In July the nursing home submitted his application for Aid & Assistance benefits. My mother lives alone in low income senior housing; both she and dad receive Social Security benefits and that’s it. They have zero assets other than a 12 year old automobile, no savings, no retirement, no disablility, no pension. Tonight I received notice from Vetrans Affairs that dad was denied benefits because his income is too high for he and 1 dependant; $23K/year is the max together they receive $29K. Needless to say I am so very disappointed and will put off telling him if there is any way to appeal their decision.

    The website claims:
    To qualify medically, a War-Time Veteran or surviving spouse must need the assistance of another person to perform daily tasks, such as eating, dressing, undressing, taking care of the needs of nature, etc. Being blind or in a nursing home for mental or physical incapacity, or residing in an assisted living facility also qualifies.

    To qualify financially, an applicant must have on average less than $80,000 in assets, EXCLUDING their home and vehicles.

    Was I wrong to assume he met the criteria for both medical and financial eligibility?

    Any advice from you will be greatly appreciated.

    Respectfully,
    M.L.

  • Posted November 5, 2011

    lori foley

    Hi Debbie…..I am so glad to have found your blog. I am hoping you can help me in getting this process going, as I do not even know if Mom or I are eligible for anything, but it always worth a try. My father, who was active during WW2, and received a general discharge, but was not disabled or wounded, is now deceased. I am the sole caregiver for my basically totally disabled elderly mother, she is 84 and has alot of medical issues, some that have left her 90% crippled. I am wondering if there are any monies out there for us. God knows it would come in handy. I am disabled myself and she lives with myself and my 2 daughters(both over 21). Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank-you and God Bless You,
    Lori A. Foley
    lorifoley69@yahoo.com

  • Posted August 15, 2012

    Connie Jon’es

    Hi Debbie,
    My name is connie and I have just started the journey of trying to get aid and attendance for my husband. I am a full time student; it has been very difficult trying to maintain a good GPA and taking care of my husband. Please don’t get me wrong, when I said I do in my vows I meant it. I love taking care of my husband, however it has been very hard on me traveling back and forth to school , doctors appointments, and picking up medication a long with making sure his medical needs, physical needs, and other needs are met. There is no way I can get or keep a job with all these requirements. Please help! I need an example of a doctor’s letter to help support us.
    Sincerely
    Connie

    • Posted August 19, 2012

      Debbie

      Connie,

      Having his physician complete the VA form 21-2680 stating what his physical situation is and clearly stating that he requires the assistance of others for his daily living will be fine. The Dr. does not need to write an actual letter. He needs to complete the form with all information so that the VA knows what his condition is and the challenges he faces with requiring assistance.

      Good luck to you in the process, and I highly suggest you use the website and forums to guide you through the application process.

      Debbie

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