Aid and Attendance: How Dementia Affects Marital History

The Department of Veterans Affairs strives to be veteran friendly and non-adversarial.  This mandate is essential to the VA’s founding principles and goes back as far as Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.  In fact, President Lincoln spoke the words, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan” during his second inaugural address.

The Department of Veterans Affairs often carries out their aspirational mission efficiently and with great results.  I’ve personally witnessed the VA assist many veterans and their families in their quest for Aid and Attendance.  Those instances re-enforce how necessary the VA and its employees really are.

But sometimes the Department of Veterans Affairs steps on their own feet.

An application for Aid and Attendance requires a thorough marital history.  The applicant must report the number of marriages, dates, places, type of marriage, and the reason the marriage ended.  On its face these requirements don’t seem especially difficult or onerous.  But reality is a bit more complicated than a VA Form.

Many of the folks applying for Aid and Attendance suffer from some type of cognitive impairment.  Whether its Alzheimer’s or Dementia or something else, the applicant sometimes cannot remember a complete marital history.

Sadly, this happens more often than you might believe.  I’ve encountered many cases where the applicant’s first marriage ended decades ago, sometimes in the 1940’s.  Almost 70 years later these applicants have no recollection of names or dates.

Often times the applicant keeps the first marriage a secret.  The children from the second marriage either don’t know about the first marriage or just recently were told.  Relatives and former relatives have died and the marital information is lost.

The applicant and their family, trying their best to complete the application accurately and assuming the VA will be reasonable, report the forgotten marriage on the application.  Except they leave out required information.  This triggers a more information letter from the VA.  When the family can’t supply new information to the VA, the claim is denied.

You can see where this is headed.  Either the family reports the forgotten marriage and receives a denial or the family intentionally fails to report a marriage they know about.

By failing to consider, or at least implement, a more human, compassionate element to the claims process, the VA places applicants in a Catch-22:  report the marriage and receive a denial or fail to report the marriage and falsify the application.

I don’t believe the VA purposefully acts with malice.  But I know the letter of the law sometimes produces unfortunate results.

The Department of Veterans Affairs marital history policy is outdated given the realities of an aging population.   The VA’s position on marital history is flawed and needs to be corrected.

If you need to know whether your loved one qualifies for Aid and Attendance, and want a trained advocate to guide you through the process, contact VA Legal Team today for a free consultation.