As Congressional legislatures bully each other over proposed budgets, debt ceilings, and other financial priorities, the fate of many veterans hangs in the balance. Indeed, the financial fate of over 5 million veterans is at risk. The VA will run out of money by November 1st and will be unable to pay VA Aid & Attendance Non Service Connected Disability Pensions, disability benefits, G.I. Bill benefits to surviving veterans.
In an effort to fund government programs other than Obamacare, House Republicans have attempted to pass a number of bills to fund various popular portions of the government, including the VA and national parks. However, those efforts have been rebuffed by the Senate and the President in favor of a more sweeping resolution. Veterans’ groups are crying foul as other real impacts from the federal shutdown weigh against surviving soldiers and their families. The already astronomical backlog of disability claims is growing again after a period of subsiding. Additionally, for former soldiers making the transition to civilian life, vocational rehabilitation programs and Labor Department programs that help veterans find jobs are laying off staff or suspending service altogether.
Similarly, the VA is constantly working with other federal departments, including the Department of Education, the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As a result, a bill to fully fund the VA cannot happen in a vacuum because the agency would be stonewalled against pursuing interagency cooperation to achieve its goals.
VA benefits are vital to the survival of many people who were willing to lay down their lives for the benefit of the nation. For elderly veterans who have trouble with daily tasks, the Non-Service Connected Disability Pension (Aid & Attendance) helps wartime veterans obtain the care and aid they need. The payment is also available to spouses and surviving spouses of wartime veterans. In order to qualify for the benefit in the first place, veterans must show that they need it by meeting certain income requirements. As a result, the veterans most affected by the shutdown are those least able to afford the hit. These benefits pay for nursing care, home care, and assistance with daily tasks such as dressing, cooking, and cleaning, which allows many veterans to remain in their homes during their old age.
I am confident that, eventually, our government will resume normal functioning and that Aid & Attendance benefits will continue to be a useful financial resource for many elderly veterans. Additionally, planning ahead for the benefit, through the use of a QVap Trust, allows veterans to maintain the flexibility to deal with their assets without losing benefits once they have initially qualified. However, the government’s refusal to honor its financial commitments to veterans is not encouraging to those who are currently in need of the funds. Of course, the most heartbreaking aspect of this conflict is that it is unnecessarily putting veterans at risk for the sake of political brinksmanship.
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