New claim speeds Aid and Attendance pensions

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Aid and Attendance pensions are non-service-connected pensions, which are for veterans whose disability or death was not caused by or aggravated in the line of duty in the active military. These pensions are not to be confused with VA service-connected disability compensation payments, which are for veterans whose disability was caused by an illness or combat-related injury while in the line of duty in the active military. Surviving spouses of wartime service veterans are also eligible for this pension.

The Aid and Attendance pension is very versatile because it may be utilized in assisted living, non-medical home care, independent living, and in some circumstances skilled nursing. After veterans start to receive the Aid and Attendance pension, they are also eligible to receive free medications from a VA mail-order pharmacy.

NBC “Nightly News” covers the Aid and Attendance benefit.

In an attempt to shorten the waiting time for retroactive payment of the pension, the VA is now using a process called Fully Developed Claims. The goal is to process claims within 90 days of receipt. A claim is considered fully developed when the claimant has no other information to submit and requires no additional VA assistance, except for obtaining federal records. The Fully Developed Claim process was been piloted in 10 cities and has been in limited operation since 2008. It is now available all over the country. A new form 21-527EZ is required to be used and all documents and support letters to support the claim must be attached when filing a Fully Developed Claim with the VA.

These new forms are seven pages long including instructions that are a substantial reduction from the previous forms. Examples of supporting documents include a certified copy of the veteran’s discharge record, proof of income and medical expenses, and proof of net worth (assets such as CDs, cash, and saving accounts). Failure to provide the support documents will put the claim into the standard claim process that could easily double the wait period. Since the Fully Developed Claim process is very new, it remains to be seen if the goal of 90 days will be reached consistently. This new process will be welcome news for those veterans who have minimal savings accounts and are waiting for the pension to be approved while they are paying for long-term care.

Other changes include a new form 21-526 that has been revised and shortened from the previous 23 pages including instructions to 12 pages. At this writing, it is not known if form 21-534 used for pension submission for surviving spouses will have a Fully Developed Claim option available in the future.

Joseph Scott McCarthy is the author of Checks for Vets, a guidebook to help wartime service veterans and their surviving spouses receive VA pensions to pay for long-term care, available at various online booksellers. For more information, visit Mr. McCarthy can be reached at

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Fully Developed Claim Notice in PDF Format

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