It wasn’t until my father, Andrew Winnegar Sr., was in his late 80s that he applied for and received a small veteran’s pension for his military service in WWII.
According to the Veterans Benefits Administration, wartime veterans 65 years or older with a limited income and wartime veterans with a permanent disability, may qualify for the veterans pension benefit.
My father’s pension was later increased through the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit.
He needed assistance with a number of tasks at home due to severe anemia that only allowed him to walk about 150 feet and caused shortness of breath, weakness standing and fatigue.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, anemia is a common problem among older adults. Often the cause of anemia in older adults is when the bone marrow is unable to incorporate into the red blood cells. The disorder may be mild or more serious and is generally a symptom of other diseases and conditions or resulting from cancer treatment using chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
“My anemia came on so slowly that I don’t know when it started. It has been blamed on radiation from prostate treatment causing the loss of red blood cells, that was 17 years ago,” said Winnegar, 94.
He said he has been limited in his activities inside and outside the house, but he still drives his car to haul trash to the dumpster and to run short errands.
“It is not the driving so much but the getting to and from the car that is the problem,” he said.
“I reach the limit of endurance at my VA appointments; it’s a long walk even after you get to the front door,” he said.
Anemia is a painless ailment and my father could probably extend his travel and mobility by using a walker or a power wheel chair. However, he told me he wasn’t interested in being encumbered by the extra equipment.
“I do miss being able to do the minor repairs and maintenance around the house that I was accustomed to performing,” he said.
Winnegar flew 66 Combat Missions in the Pacific as a Navy aviation radioman 2/C in carrier-based Torpedo Bombers and was awarded six Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
A veteran receiving a pension may be eligible for the Aid and Attendancebenefits when they require the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, are bedridden, are a patient in a nursing home or are blind, or nearly blind.
But very few wartime veterans or surviving spouses know about the benefit
The New York Times reported in 2012 that less than 5 percent of World War II veterans and surviving spouses who were in need of care giving assistance had applied for or received the VA benefits.
The VA also has a Housebound Benefit program for veterans on a VA pension who spend most of their time at home because of a permanent disability. This housebound benefit can also increase a monthly pension amount, but cannot be combined with the A&A benefit.
Medicare has similar rules for beneficiaries to receive home health services under the homebound status. The Medicare program does not include any cash assistance.
According to the 2012 U.S. census community survey, there were 12.4 million veterans age 65 or older. These veterans served in conflicts including World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War.
VA benefits include disability compensation, pension, education and training, health care, home loans, insurance, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and burial.
Information on how to apply for a Veterans Pension and other benefits can be found at: https://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/vetpen.asp.
Andy Winnegar has spent his career in rehabilitation and is based in Santa Fe as a training associate for the Southwest ADA Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.