PHILADELPHIA REFLECTIONS
Musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

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Right Angle Club 2009
The 2009 proceedings of the Right Angle Club of Philadelphia, beginning with the farewell address of the outgoing president, John W. Nixon, and sadly concluding with memorials to two departed members, Fred Etherington and Harry Bishop.

An Under-used Veterans Benefit

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Piles of Paperwork

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has has 56 regional offices in the United States and is one of the largest providers of medical care and insurance in the country. Robert Costantini from the Philadelphia office told the Right Angle members about one of the VA's programs which seems to be way under-used but which is readily available and has been for many years. It's called Aid and Attendance and can help a vet or his spouse meet assisted living or nursing home expenses. With rates for such care easily hitting $4500 to $6000 per month it doesn't take too much imagination to see that even well-off retirees could soon run through their savings. Luckily, a Pennsylvania law prevents nursing homes from removing a patient for lack of funds once they have been accepted.

Possibly one reason that the program is not tapped more frequently is that to be eligible a veteran's yearly income must be less than a certain threshold, currently just under $20,000 for a veteran alone and a bit more than $23,000 with one dependent. Although this is a relatively low amount many people who are unable to care for themselves could easily meet the criteria since non-reimbursed expenses for assisted living (both in a commercial facility and in-home help) and nursing home care can normally be deducted from the total income of a family. This, more often than not, will drop them way under the threshold and allow them to begin receiving the payments which can be as high as $2600 a month for a totally disabled person. The rates actually awarded are based on the percentage of the disability.

It's not unknown for government rules and regulations to be confusing and overwhelming for even the stoutest individual, but there is even help available to reduce the hassle burden on people in poor health. Keith Fishlinger of Estate Management Services of Schwenskville, PA, spoke along with Robert about the help his company can provide in this area. They know the rules and know who to contact and can provide all the bureaucratic navigation expertise to get the money flowing when it is due. Our own John White also provided some insight into a recent Pennsylvania law that required children to be held responsible for their parent's care expenses in certain cases so the Aid and Attendance benefits from the VA could conceivably benefit even them.

It would behoove most of us Right Anglers to become familiar with the VA programs since so many of us are veterans. It certainly won't hurt to get the word out to others, either, since the lawmaker in Harrisburg and elsewhere never seem to run out of ways to get as much of everyone's funds as they can.

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