Column 50

Column 50 - June 8 -2014


Marilyn  Traugott of Mercy Hospice once told me "People die the way the lived".  In caring for my husband's mother, I saw a woman who definitely did so.  She was socially engaging until the day before she died.  This most private and modest woman was able to bear the indignity of having her most basic needs attended to by summoning her sense of humor.  Together we laughed about some of the most potentially embarrassing moments and I did my best to preserve her dignity throughout.  It was an honor to have been able to assist in this process.

            As with any death, the next steps after the funeral are to deal with financial issues.  Please be very careful if you have any prepaid arrangements.  Be sure that all the details are filed in an easily accessible spot for your loved ones to obtain the benefits for which you paid.  Since these arrangements are often made many years in advance and funeral establishments change owners, documents can be lost as appears to be the case for our family. It was heart wrenching to watch my 90 year old father-in-law become so distressed when the Bay Area funeral home was unable to locate any records on her account.  He had been quite proud that he had the foresight to take care of this for his children.

We will be researching and tracking down the cancelled checks and original documents, but as you can imagine that is not easily done.  In my experience, older folks are often very concerned about prepaying these expenses and can be victims of an emotionally charged sales pitch.  For example, when there is no viewing, I wonder why one would be encouraged to buy a casket at a price of $1100 for a cremation.  A $450 pine box would do the job just as well.

Another benefit I am in the process of learning about is the VA Non-Service connected disability pension.  Apparently there are benefits for up to $1360 monthly even if only the spouse needs care.  This was established in 1952 and has two components: Aid & Attendance and Housebound Benefit. Since there had to be 24 hour care while I was unavailable (at a cost of $21 hour) this is a significant expense. 

The materials state that this benefit is designed to provide "at tax free pension to help defray the cost of long-term care; Assisted, Skilled or Home".  There is no repayment provision, so you are not mortgaging the estate. 

*Eligibility requirements include:

*Must be age 65 and unemployable

*Must have an Honorable or General Discharge

*Must have served at least 90 days of active Federal duty with at least one day during a period of conflict.  Those include WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars

*Must have a medical necessity requiring care, for example at least two of the 5 ADL's (Activities of Daily Living) which include dressing, bathing, toileting, feeding and transferring.

*Must meet income and countable asset criteria established by the VA.  The maximum income to qualify for a veteran and spouse must be less than $25,022 according to the representative on the phone.

It is my understanding that the home is exempt if the Veteran or spouse are still living in it.  Required documents will be discharge papers, a physician's report and a form completed indicating the financial data for the applicants.


I was surprised to learn about this potential benefit since the Veteran has no service related disability.  As long term care is such a big expense for many seniors this could prove to be very valuable.  More information is available at to apply for and learn more about Veteran's benefits.  If you do not have internet access try calling 800-827-1000.


Note: All information in this column is provided" to the best of my knowledge" subject to final regulation by the respective agencies at press deadline.  Please submit questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .