Modern Day Pension Benefits

One overlooked genealogical treasure when researching modern ancestors is modern day pension benefits. Recently, I was put in a position to place my mother, who had lived with me many years, in an assisted living facility. My husband had sustained an injury that needed my additional care and attention.

As I went about arranging my mother’s situation, I learned about a veterans’ pension benefit to assist in her care. It is called the Veterans’ Aid and Attendance Improved Pension and is offered through the Veteran’s Administration to military veterans and surviving spouses. My father served in the Navy during World War II, making my mother eligible to apply for the benefit. Paperwork for this pension benefit contains significant genealogical and biographical information whether the application is approved or denied.

To receive this pension benefit, the veteran and/or spouse filing for the benefit requires “the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing, undressing, medication dosing, or taking care of the needs of nature to receive additional monetary benefits. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Assisted care in an Assisted Living facility also qualifies.” (To find more about this benefit you can visit this site.

The application for this benefit used to be 4 pages but now takes 26 pages. With the application pages and pages of information and proof are required. When I completed my mother’s application for this benefit, I submitted over 150 pages of documentation to meet the proof and eligibility requirements. The following documentation is required.

  • Discharge/Separation Papers (DD-214). If you need to request military records, you can either fill out Standard Form 180,  or you can visit this site. Full instructions on how to request military records is listed on that site. This can also be obtained from the online National Records and Archives (NARA) website here. To order the record online you must be the military veteran, or the next of kin of a deceased, former member of the military. The next of kin can be any of the following: surviving spouse that has not remarried, father, mother, son, daughter, sister, or brother. If the veteran is deceased, you are required to submit a copy of the veteran’s death certificate and a signature page that is sent in after the online order.
  • Copy of Marriage Certificate and all marital information (surviving spouses only).
  • Copy of the Death Certificate (surviving spouses only).
  • Copy of current Social Security Award Letter (the letter that Social Security sends at the beginning of the year stating what your monthly amount will be for the following year). (In the case of my mother she worked for the government so I had to submit her pension records instead as she is not eligible for Social Security benefits.)
  • Net worth information, including bank accounts, CDs, trusts, stocks, bonds, annuities, etc.
  • Proof of all income from pensions, retirement, interest income from investments, annuities, etc.
  • If you are a court-appointed guardian of the veteran or surviving spouse, a certified copy of the court order of the appointment is required.
  • Proof of insurance premiums, medications, medical bills or any other medical expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
  • Physician statement that includes current diagnosis, medical status, prognosis, name and address, ability to care for self, ability to travel unattended, etc.
  • Banking information for Direct Deposit of A&A monthly payments (include a voided check).
  • Employment history (does not apply if you are over 65).
  • List of all doctors and hospitals visited in the last year.

Any War-Time Veteran with 90 days of active duty, 1 day beginning or ending during a period of war, is eligible to apply for the Aid & Attendance Improved Pension. A surviving spouse (marriage must have ended due to death of veteran) of a War-Time Veteran may also apply. For this benefit and any other pension benefit, War-Time Veterans approved by Congress are as follows:

  • Indian Wars: January 1, 1817, through December 31, 1898. The veteran must have served thirty days or more, or for the duration of such Indian War. Service must have been with the U.S. forces against Indian tribes or nations.
  • Spanish-American War: April 21, 1898, through July 4, 1902, including the Philippine Insurrection and the Boxer Rebellion. Also included are those individuals engaged in the Moro Province hostilities through July 15, 1903.
  • Mexican Border War: May 9, 1916, through April 5, 1917. The veteran must have served for one day or more in Mexico, on the borders thereof, or in the waters adjacent thereto.
  • World War I: April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918, extended to April 1, 1920, for those who served in the Soviet Union. Service after November 11, 1918, through July 2, 1921, qualifies for benefits purposes if active duty was performed for any period during the basic World War I period.
  • World War II: December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946, extended to July 25, 1947, where continuous with active duty on or before December 31, 1946.
  • Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955.
  • Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975. However, February 28, 1961, through May 7, 1975, for a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period.
  • Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990, through a date to be prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law.
  • Congress has not enacted legislation that would make the periods covering the 1983-1984 Lebanon crisis or the invasions of Grenada and Panama wartime service.

If an ancestor had the potential to serve in any of these wars, it is worth the time and effort to examine military records to see if the ancestor served during a time that he/she would have qualified for a pension or other benefits. In addition to providing current benefits, a military record can provide significant information to extend a family line further back in time.

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