General for Elders

Friday, November 15, 2013

Veterans Eligible for Both VA Healthcare and Medicare? Who Pays What?

Eligible for both VA and Medicare? 

Who pays what?  Do I need insurance if I’m eligible for VA healthcare?

You’ve been approved for VA Pension or Compensation, and you will be receiving healthcare and prescription drugs at the VA facility.  You also have Medicare part B and Medicare part D.  Do you need both? 

Medicare Part A pays for inpatient hospital care for up to 90 days per benefit period, skilled nursing care partial pay for up to 100 days each benefit period, home healthcare for up to 100 days, and hospice care.

Medicare Part B pays for doctor’s visits, ambulance services, preventive care services, and durable medical equipment, as well as many other services.

Medicare Part D pays for outpatient prescription drugs.

For veterans that qualify, the VA provides care in VA healthcare facilities, as well as contract care in other facilities when the VA cannot provide the required care.  The VA authorizes care at non-VA facilities when necessary medical services are not routinely available at a VA facility, or the VA determines that the services can be obtained more economically outside the VA.  The non-VA care must be authorized by the VA in advance.

Unless the veteran has other healthcare, or his or her healthcare is being provided by the spouse’s employer, once he or she turns 65 she must enroll in Medicare Part B and D.  If she does not enroll at age 65, when and if she finally enrolls, she will have to pay a Part B and/or a Part D premium penalty which increases for every year she does not enroll in the programs.

The veteran may want to enroll in Part B in order to receive healthcare services from Medicare approved providers that provide services he may not be able to receive in a VA facility.  In that case, it is important to enroll at age 65. 

If the veteran is eligible for prescription medications from the VA, he may choose not to enroll in Medicare Part D.  VA prescription coverage is considered “creditable”, meaning it is as good, or better, than Medicare Part D coverage.  What that means for the veteran is that he can delay enrolling in Part D and not suffer a penalty.  However, if the veteran loses his prescription coverage, he has 63 days to enroll in a Part D plan or he will be penalized. 

When deciding whether or not to enroll in Part D, the veteran should consider if he will get all of his prescriptions from the VA.  The VA will only provide coverage of the drugs the veteran receives from the VA.  A veteran is eligible for the prescription benefit if he or she is enrolled in and receiving health care from the VA.  The prescriptions must be written by a VA health care provider, or a VA-authorized provider.   A VA health care provider will review prescriptions written by a private health care provider to determine whether the VA can rewrite the prescription and dispense it from a VA pharmacy.  Most prescriptions can be mailed to the home, or can be picked up at the VA pharmacy.  Depending on what priority category the veteran is in, he or she may have a co-pay for each prescription received.  Co-pays for prescriptions are between $8.00 and $9.00 per prescription.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Service Connection: How do I Prove It? Part 2

Service Connection:  How Do I Prove It?

Part 2:    Proving Injury in Service

Once you’ve proven you are a veteran, how do you prove that your current disability was caused by something that happened to you in the service?

The VA can pay compensation for a condition that was incurred in service, for a condition that existed before entry into service that was aggravated during service, or for a disability related to a disease that is statutorily presumed to be related to service.

If you were injured or contracted a disease while in the service, and you are currently suffering from a disability, you have to prove that the injury or disease occurred while you were in the service, that there was medical evidence of your injury or disease while you were in service, and you must provide medical evidence that you are currently disabled.  There should be some evidence in your military records that an incident occurred, or that you contracted a disease while you were in the service.  If there is no evidence of the incident in your record, you can use your own statement and or statements of those who were with you when the incident happened to prove that you were injured.  Then, the VA may be required to get your military healthcare records from military hospitals and doctors that show that you were treated for an injury while you were in service.  The VA may also be required to help you get a medical exam to show the current disability.   Although the VA may have a requirement to get your military healthcare records, if your injury or disease occurred many years before your present disability, you may want to write to the hospitals yourself to get the records.  You will need to remember the approximate dates of treatment, along with your name, social security number, and any other information you can think of that might help them find your records.   Some of the military hospitals have closed, so you may have to do some research on where the medical records were sent when the facility closed.

To prove an aggravated service-connected condition, you must show that you had a condition before you entered the service.  Your service entrance medical records should show the evidence of the condition.  Then, you will need to be able to show that an incident occurred that caused the condition to get worse while you were in the service.  This evidence should be in medical records of treatment in military or civilian hospitals while you were still on active duty.  If there is no evidence of an incident that aggravated the condition, you will have to show that your current disability is not the result of the normal progression of the disease.

We discuss presumptive service-connected diseases in subsequent posts. 

Establishing a claim for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder requires that you provide a statement about a traumatic event, or “stressor” that occurred during service, that you have a diagnosis of PTSD, and an opinion that a VA psychologist or psychiatrist believers that the stressor was sufficient to cause PTSD.

Proving a service-connected disability may seem daunting.  However, veteran’s service organizations are there to help.  Here is a link to a chart of state veteran’s service organizations:  Just click on your state and find the closest state VA office.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Veteran's Service-Connection: How Do I Prove It? Part 1: How Do I Prove I'm a Veteran?


How Do I Prove It?

Part 1:  How Do I Prove I Am A Veteran?


When a member of the armed services leaves the military and then later develops a disability, what do they have to do to prove the disability was caused by their service?

There are three things that the veteran must prove in order to receive a decision that the disability is service-connected, which could entitle them to “compensation” from the VA.

1st, they have to prove that they are a veteran.  2nd they have to show that they have a disability and 3rd they have to show that the disability is most likely related to something that happened while they were in the service.

A veteran  “means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.” 38 C.F.R. Section 3.1d.  

The person can prove that their veteran’s status by producing an official separation document.  For veterans who were discharged from service after 1950, the separation document is the DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (Report of Separation).  For those veterans discharged before 1950, there were various official forms used to show that the veteran was discharged.  Most of those documents have Separation in the title of the document.

If a veteran does not have his or her official Separation Report, he or she can order it through the National Archives.  Here is a link to the website:

The veteran can either mail or fax a request for the records, in which case you should download a form – SF-180 and mail or fax it to the National Archives, or you can apply online at eVetrecs at this website address:

Most of the discharge records are stored at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.  In 1973, the building housing the records caught on fire.  Consequently, 80% of the records of Army personnel discharged between Nov. 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 and 75% of the records of Air force personnel discharged between September 24,1947 and January 1, 1964 were affected.  While the National Archives has been able to reconstruct many of the records, it may take a bit longer for a veteran discharged between the affected dates to receive an official record of the military discharge.

When requesting records, you should include the following information, if known:

  • The veteran's complete name used while in service
  • Service number
  • Social security number
  • Branch of service
  • Dates of service
  • Date and place of birth (especially if the service number is not known).
  • If you suspect your records may have been involved in the 1973 fire, also include:
  • Place of discharge
  • Last unit of assignment
  • Place of entry into the service, if known.

The DD-214 or Report of Separation will contain the following information:

  • Date and place of entry into active duty
  • Home address at time of entry
  • Date and place of release from active duty
  • Home address after separation
  • Last duty assignment and rank
  • Military job specialty
  • Military education
  • Decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign awards
  • Total creditable service
  • Foreign service credited
  • Separation information (type of separation, character of service, authority and reason for separation, separation and reenlistment eligibility codes)

Since the veteran or surviving spouse will need this document to apply for all veteran’s benefits, it’s a good idea to locate this important document before you need it and store it in a safe place or record it with your county recorder so you’ll be sure to find it when you need it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

So Who is a Military Veteran?

So who is a military veteran?

Although it may seem that defining a military veteran should be easy, the term “veteran” may be defined differently depending on the calendar years the person served in the military, whether the person was in the Reserves or National Guard, and it may be defined differently based upon the programs or benefits the person is seeking.

The basic definition of a veteran is “a person who served in the active military, naval or air service, and was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable. 

The first prong in the definition, then, requires “active service.”  So, what is “active service”?

According to the VA’s manual, active service includes “active duty” defined as full-time duty in the Armed Forces, other than active duty for training.  In addition, active duty includes any period of active duty for training in which the individual became disabled or died from an injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; or from an acute myocardial infarction, cardiac arrest, or cerebrovascular accident occurring during such training.  (See 38 U.S.C. Section 101(24).

For compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation purposes, the persons whose death was due to “willful misconduct” are excluded from the definition of “veteran”.

What about people who served in the Reserves or National Guard?

Although persons who served in the Reserves do not generally meet the “active duty” requirements for veteran status, a Reservist can meet the criteria if he or she dies or becomes disabled from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during a period of active duty for training or inactive duty training, or dies or becomes disabled of a acute myocardial infarction, cardiac arrest, or a cerebrovascular accident that occurred during active duty or inactive duty training.  A Reservist may also attain “veteran” status if he or she performs full-time duty in the Armed forces other than active duty for training purposes.

In addition, a Reservist may be classified as a “veteran” if the Reservist served full-time and for operational or support purposes. 

Members of the National Guard do not attain “veteran” status if they serve on active duty for training purposes, unless the guard member has a service-connected disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty during their active duty for training purposes.  If the Guard unit, or the individual member of a Guard unit is ordered into active duty under the authority of 10 United States Code, the member(s) are serving on Federal Active Duty, and such service does count as active duty.

A second prong of the definition of “veteran” provides a requirement for a minimum number of days or years the person must have served on active duty. 

With some exceptions, in order to be classified as a “veteran” the person must have served for 24 months of continuous active duty, or have served for the full amount of time for which the person was called or ordered to active duty.  For instance, if a person is called up for 12 months, and serves the entire 12 months that period of time could qualify him or her for veteran’s status.    In some cases, a person who is serving as a regular enlisted member of the armed forces may be discharged within one year of the expiration of his enlistment, and may still be considered a veteran for purposes of veteran’s benefits.

Finally, the person must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.  A discharge classified by the branch of services as honorable, general, or discharge under honorable condition is binding on the VA.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Benefits Available to Survivor's Of Military Veterans- DIC

Survivor’s Benefit – DIC

Mary’s husband was rated 100% service-connected for a cancer related to Agent Orange exposure.  After receiving Compensation for a number of years, Mary’s husband dies of the cancer.  Mary is 76, and is no longer able to care for herself in her home. She can no longer bathe or dress herself, and she needs someone to manage her medications.

What benefits are available to Mary?  What about other surviving spouses or dependent children of veterans?

There are two monetary benefits available to the surviving spouses or dependent children of veterans.   One is available to the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, when the veteran’s death is not considered to be service-connected.  The other benefit is available when the death of the veteran is related to his service connected injury in some way.  This benefit is called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or DIC.

DIC is a monthly benefit that is available to a surviving spouse or dependent child of certain deceased veterans.

When is this benefit available? 

First, the death had to have been under the following conditions:

  •  A military member died on active duty
  • Or, a veteran who died as a result of a service-connected injury or disease;
  • Or,   the veteran died as a result of a non-service connected injury or disease, but the veteran was receiving or entitled to receive Compensation for a service-connected disability that was rated totally disabling
  • For at least ten years immediately preceding death,
  • Or, since the veteran was released from active duty and he or she was receiving or entitled to receive Compensation for five years immediately preceding death,
  • Or for one year preceding death, if the veteran was a former prisoner of war.

A surviving spouse is eligible if she or he meets the requirements for marriage, and is not remarried.  Once the spouse remarries, she or he loses eligibility during the subsequent marriage.

Surviving children are eligible for DIC if they are unmarried, under the age of 18, or between 18 and 23 and attending school. 

A helpless child of the veteran is eligible if the child is incapable of self-support, and the child was disabled before the age of 18. 

Currently, the surviving spouse is eligible for a monthly payment of $1215.00 per month.  If the veteran was entitled to a total disability for at least 8 years prior to death, and the spouse was married to him/her the entire 8 years, the surviving spouse is eligible for an addition $258.00.

In this case, Mary may be eligible for an additional $301.00 if she is has trouble performing some of her activities of daily living and is in need of the assistance of another person on a regular basis to help her accomplish those activities of daily living.  Mary should file a claim for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) with the Department of Veterans Affairs on VA Form 21-534 or 21-534 EZ, and include a doctor’s statement and VA Form 21-2680 indicating that Mary is deficient in some of the activities of daily living. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Veteran's Service-Connection: Presumed for Certain Diseases

Presumed Service-Connection for Certain Diseases

Is there any connection between diseases or disabilities that show up after a veteran has been released from service?

If a veteran is discharged from service, and then develops a chronic, tropical, prisoner-of-war related disease, or a disease associated with exposure to an herbal agent, which manifests itself to a compensable degree (generally 10%) within a specified period after discharge from service, it is possible that he/she may receive a service-connected disability rating and compensation for that disability.   There is a whole laundry list of chronic diseases that, even if there is no evidence the veteran had symptoms while in service, are presumed to have been caused by their service.  If those diseases cause the veteran to be disabled – to lose some ability to earn money- the VA will award a monetary amount based on that disability.

The presumption means that the veteran does not have to provide proof that the disease was incurred in the service, as long as the disease shows up within a certain period of time, which may be different for different diseases.  That period of time is called the presumptive period.  The presumptive periods vary from one year for most of the diseases, to three years for Hansen’s Disease and Tuberculosis, to seven years for Multiple Sclerosis to any time for ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Although a presumption means that the veteran does not have to prove causation, the VA can present evidence to rebut that presumption if they can show that there was an intervening cause for the disease.

The list of presumptive diseases is listed at 38 C.F.R. sections 3.309 and 3.317, and includes Diabetes, Leukemia, Epilepsies, Tuberculosis, and Ulcers.  There are over 40 diseases on the list, so veterans who develop chronic diseases after discharge should check to see whether the disease for which they have been diagnosed is on the list of presumptive service connected diseases.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Veteran's Burial Benefits

Burial Benefits for Veterans

 The death of a veteran is always a difficult time for the family, but there are some benefits available to the veteran’s family that might make his or her death a little less financially difficult.  Veterans who were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions are eligible for burial in a VA cemetery, a burial flag, and may be eligible for a one-time burial allowance, a funeral expense and a plot interment allowance.

Although the veteran cannot reserve a space, a veteran can be buried in one of the 131 national cemeteries located in 39 of the states the U.S.  and in Puerto Rico if there is space in the cemetery.  Georgia has two national cemeteries, one in Canton and one in Marietta.  However, the cemetery in Marietta is closed for burials, and can only take cremations.

The family of the veteran must arrange with a funeral home for the veteran to be embalmed or cremated, at the family’s expense.  The family can arrange with the VA for the burial by calling the VA to let them know of their desire to bury the veteran at the national cemetery by faxing the appropriate discharge paper to the VA at 1-866-900-6417 the calling the VA at 1-800-535-1117 with information regarding where the veteran is to be buried.

The VA takes care of opening and closing the grave, as well as the perpetual care of the gravesite.  In addition, the VA provides a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Certificate at no cost to the family.

The spouse and/or dependent child of a veteran eligible for burial in a national cemetery is also eligible for burial in a national cemetery.

When is a veteran eligible for burial in a national cemetery?

A service-member who died on active duty is eligible for burial in a national cemetery. 

Since 1980 for enlisted service-members and 1981 for officers, the veteran must have served for 24 months or for the required time of service.

In some circumstances, parents whose biological or adoptive child whose death was the result of a hostile casualty or a training-related injury may be eligible for burial in the national cemetery.  Their child must be interred in a national cemetery, in a gravesite that has enough available space for a subsequent interment, and the child must not have any spouse or dependent child who is either buried or may be eligible to be buried in the national cemetery.

In addition to the burial, some veterans’ families are eligible for burial allowances.  These payments are classified as a burial and funeral expense allowance and a plot interment allowance.

The family may be eligible if they paid for the veteran’s funeral and they have not been reimbursed by another governmental agency or another source, such as the veteran’s employer.

As always, the veteran must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.

In addition, the veteran must have died because of a service-connected disability, or must have been receiving VA Pension or Compensation, or was eligible to receive Pension or Compensation or died in a VA hospital, a nursing home under VA contract, or while in an approved state nursing home.

If the veteran’s death was service-related, the VA will pay up to $2000 toward burial expenses if the death occurred after Sept. 11, 2001.  If the veteran is buried in a national cemetery, the VA may pay some or all of the cost of transporting the veteran.

If the death was non-service connected, the VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

GUEST BLOGGER JOBI TYSON ON Helping Seniors Stay Physically and Mentally Active: MIND, BODY & SPIRIT

According to a 2013 study by the National Institutes of Health, “A little exercise and some mental stimulation may go a long way toward helping senior citizens stay sharp.” Researchers found the memory and thinking skills of 126 inactive older adults improved after they were assigned daily activities designed to engage their brains and their bodies. 

Therefore, making small changes in physical and mental activity leads to positive changes in memory and thinking skills and great results for the mind, body, and spirit. 

MIND: Seniors can keep their mind sharp with games such as word search, dominoes, Scrabble, learning a new language, learning to play an instrument, interacting with others, engaging with younger generation, and/or learning new technology. Experts suggest the following: 

  • Attend lectures and plays 
  • Read, write, work crossword or other puzzles 
  • Stay curious and involved — explore a lifelong interest 
  • Garden work 
  • Memory exercises
  • Enroll in courses at a local adult education center, community college or other community group 

BODY: Physical activity is one of the most important steps older adults can take to maintain physical and mental health and quality of life. Yet today, more than 60 percent of older adults are inactive, and this number is probably much higher for residents of assisted living communities.  Many are sedentary, physically unfit, and experience disability from chronic medical conditions as they age. Seniors can benefit from these tips: 

Keep it simple (walk, swim, yoga); just move and get some fresh air. Movement helps with flexibility, strength, balance, stability, lower blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. For seniors who have physical limitations one of the best ways to enjoy a variety of activities is with a Nintendo Wii game. Wii is an interactive system that connects to a television. The virtual games allow those with physical limitations to enjoy activities such as bowling, tennis, soccer, golf, skiing, and yoga. Consult physician before beginning physical activity program. 

For those who are physically able, get involved in a seniors group at a local health club or senior center. Go walking during the day with a friend at the park or the mall. Continue playing golf, bowling, tennis, or swimming. Many health clubs offer water aerobics for seniors. 

One of the most enjoyable ways to get seniors moving is by helping them remember their favorite childhood games. 

  • Bring hopscotch inside by using stickers or colored tape to create the hopscotch board on the floor inside the home. Seniors incapable of actually hopping, can simply walk across the board, occasionally pausing and balancing on one foot. 
  • Play a simplified version of jacks by spreading out a collection of actual jacks or other small items across a table and providing a small ball to bounce. Seniors can pick up a certain number of items, or items of a specific color, each time they bounce the ball. The game can become more challenging by using more advanced instructions such as first picking up three items, then being challenged to pick up enough items to make eight. This critical thinking exercise will keep seniors’ brains healthier 
  • Gather children and play a family game of Simon Says, a perfect opportunity to encourage physical exercise 
  • Keep instructions and movements simple so that seniors stay safe and enjoy the activity 

SPIRIT: When the body ages, the ability of seniors to stay sharp and the ability to deal effectively with anxiety and stress reduce as well. While there are many ways to help an elderly loved one do all they can do to maintain health, one of the best ways to improve both the physical and mental health of a senior citizen is meditation. Loneliness isn’t just an emotional issue; it’s a form of stress that has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and early death. And it’s particularly acute among the elderly. 

  • Meditation can reduce feelings of loneliness and boost the immune system. 
  • Other calming activities that can boost the spirit are soothing massages, which also helps reduce stress levels; pet therapy; and interaction with children. 

Mind, body and spirit are important factors in keeping seniors physically and mentally active.  Caretakers and family members should take time to work with senior loved ones to focus and reflect on all of the wonderful effects that physical and mental activity can bring. 


About the Writer 

Jobi Tyson is founder of Grand Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization granting wishes to senior citizens 70 years and older and fighting elder hunger and abuse. The goal is to uplift elders in nursing facilities and those living in their own homes by making their wishes come true. For more information about Grand Wish Foundation or to donate toward the Feed the Elderly Initiative, visit 


Archived Posts


← Newer1 2 3Older →

The Elrod-Hill Law Firm,LLC assists clients with Estate Planning, Veterans Benefits, Medicaid, Elder Care Law, Probate, Special Needs Planning and Pet Trusts in the North Atlanta area including the counties of Dekalb, Gwinnett and Fulton.

© 2020 The Elrod-Hill Law Firm,LLC | Disclaimer
3930 E. Jones Bridge Rd., NW, Suite 160, Peachtree Corners, GA 30092
| Phone: 770-416-0776

Talks & Seminars | Veterans Benefits | Estate Planning | Probate / Estate Administration | Guardianship / Conservatorship | Claiming Veterans Benefits | Medicaid Planning | Special Needs Planning | Elder Care Law | Pet Trusts | Advanced Estate Planning | Events

Attorney Website Design by
Zola Creative