Years ago, a close family member of mine tried to get one of his hard-earned benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA). After about a year of hair-pulling frustration and aggravation, he gave up. Fast forward about 20 years; his wife and in-laws start to “nag” him to pursue his right to benefits.
Close to frustration once again, he lucks into a local Veteran Service Officer who walks him through all of the paperwork, acts as his representative when dealing with the VA and encourages him to not give up.
Lo and behold, several months later he starts to get letters from the VA stating that they are working on it and occasionally asking for another piece of documentation. But — his claim for benefits is finally in the system and in the works.
Sound like a familiar scenario? Unfortunately, too many of our veterans — and their families — who gave so much for our country find themselves in their biggest fight ever when trying to access benefits from the VA. And those are only for the benefits that they know about. There are so many more benefits available to veterans, their families and their surviving spouses that most folks know nothing about. And the VA isn’t going to be looking for you to tell you about them.
That is where the local Veteran Service Officers come in. They typically are veterans who are trained by the VA on the benefits and paperwork — usually on a volunteer basis. They work closely with you on completing and submitting the paperwork, answering your questions about correspondence you receive from the VA, assisting you with additional documentation and being your representative should you need assistance in convincing the VA that you indeed are due the benefits you applied for.
There is a wide variety of benefits available — some of which are commonly known and others that most people haven’t heard about. There are medical benefits for veterans, burial options for veterans (and in some cases their spouses), disability pensions, Aid & Attendance pension, Homebound benefits, and much more. When it comes to disability benefits, many veterans don’t think that it applies to them if they weren’t wounded in a war. But disabilities that are service-related can go much deeper than that and it is worth exploring.
Aid & Attendance is one of the VA’s best-kept secrets. You or your spouse may qualify for benefits which can help pay the costs associated with residential care such as assisted living or a nursing home. You also may be able to receive benefits to help pay for a bit of home care. And some of the benefits may pay you retroactively back to the date the VA received your application.
Contacting and working with local Veteran Service Officers is the best way to go. You can meet with them face to face, discuss your situation and start the process toward getting the help and assistance you qualify for. Be wary of those companies that advertise that they can get you your benefits in a 4- to 6-month time frame. Unfortunately, the VA doesn’t work that fast. And — there usually is a catch.
A Veterans Benefits Seminar will be from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at the American Legion, 107 E. Prairie St. in Sequim. Veteran Service Officers will be talking about a number of different benefits that you and/or your family members may qualify for. There also will be a question-and-answer period at the end of the seminar. This seminar is free to all. Veterans and family members of veterans are strongly encouraged to attend this informational seminar. For more information, call Pam Scott at 683-7047 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A memory screening is noninvasive, consists of a series of questions and tasks, and takes about 10-15 minutes to administer. Nov.15 is the ninth annual National Memory Screening Day (NMSD) and is sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA). Local sites nationwide offer free, confidential memory screenings to the public and distribute educational materials about memory concerns, dementia, caregiving and successful aging. Many of these sites also offer memory screenings throughout the year.
All of the NMSD materials that AFA provides clearly emphasize that memory screenings are used as an indicator of whether a person might benefit from an extensive medical exam, but that they are not used to diagnose any illness and in no way replace an exam by a qualified health care professional. Having a medical follow-up is strongly encouraged for anyone who has a concern.
With the NMSD cam-paign, the goals are to provide free, confidential memory screenings to individuals with memory concerns or who want to check their memory now and for future comparisons; to eliminate the stigma and fears associated with dementia; to encourage individuals with memory problems to follow up with a physician or other qualified health care professional for a comprehensive examination, an accurate diagnosis, treatment, social services and community resources; to educate the public about Alzheimer’s disease and successful aging; and to alleviate the fears of those individuals who do not have a problem.
Discovery Memory Care, at 408 W. Washington St. in Sequim, is an authorized screening site for NMSD and the AFA. As part of National Memory Screening Day, they will be conducting free screenings for the public on Nov. 15-16. Because of the large turnout last year, they have extended the event by a day to accommodate more people. Screenings will be from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on both days. It is recommended that you call for an appointment, but walk-ins will be welcome on a space-available basis. Call 683-7047 to reserve your spot now.
Taking care of your memory and mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Don’t delay — act now! November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
For more information and resource assistance, e-mail Pam Scott at email@example.com or call 683-7047.
Pam Scott is the community relations director for Discovery Memory Care in Sequim.
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