VA Pension is Not a Handout

By Chris Johnson

I’m a veteran. I retired from the Marine Corps when I was 37. Now, as a VA accredited elder law and estate planning attorney, I work with veterans every day. Many of these veterans are surprised to hear that the VA offers non-service-connected benefits such as VA Pension and Aid & Attendance that can help offset the cost of long-term care at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Most older veterans and their families are glad to hear about these benefits, which can greatly improve quality of life for people who are struggling to pay for long-term care.

However, not everyone is excited about VA Pension and Aid & Attendance. Occasionally, I run into veterans who say, "I’m not interested. I don’t want these benefits. I don't want a government handout.”

If you believe that non-service-connected VA benefits are a handout, please keep reading.

VA benefits are not a handout.

Let me say it again. VA benefits are not a handout.

You earned these benefits.

VA benefits were part of the contract you signed when you agreed to serve in the military.

Serving in the military involves sacrifice. It means giving up many of your rights. When you’re in the service, you're limited in things you can say. You’re limited in political speech. You're limited in where you can live because the military is going to tell you where to live. The military is going to give you all sorts of orders. They're going to send you out of the country from time to time, which can mean giving up time with loved ones. There’s risk. There’s inconvenience.

VA benefits are a part of the compensation for those sacrifices.

You earned these benefits. All of them. You earned the GI Bill. You earned the VA home loan.

If you’re still not convinced, consider this: VA benefits aren’t available to non-military people, and the VA Pension with Aid & Attendance is only open to specific veterans who served during a wartime period and served honorably according to the VA’s definition. Some veterans I work with are upset when they learn that they don’t qualify for VA Pension because of when they served.

I encourage every veteran who comes to see me to take advantage of every VA benefit to which they are eligible.

If you’re a veteran who qualifies for VA Pension and Aid & Attendance, apply for it! You have earned it!

Occasionally, the resistance doesn’t come from the veteran. Sometimes, it’s the family. If I encounter a family caregiver for a veteran who doesn’t want to move forward with the VA Pension and Aid & Attendance application process because they are opposed in principle to government handouts (or they claim that the veteran wouldn’t want it), I tell them the same thing.

VA benefits are not a handout.

They’re a token of your country’s appreciation for a job well done.

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