Book helps veterans discover how to claim benefits
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Working for years as an administrator in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, Joseph Scott McCarthy learned all about the mountains of sometimes mystifying paperwork veterans must complete to get benefits they deserve.
Now, the Baldwin Borough man has written a book on the subject, "Checks for Vets," with an easy-to-understand guidebook format.
Among the many vet's benefits he elucidates is the option for most wartime service vets to have the Veterans Administration pay for their unreimbursed long-term care. Many veterans, he found, did not know this.
The book also provides samples of the forms a veteran needs to file a claim successfully. A reference section helps readers locate veteran service officers throughout the nation who can answer questions and process pension applications. The book also helps veterans get free pharmacy benefits.
Now a respiratory therapist and a self-described "full-time veterans' advocate," Mr. McCarthy teaches a continuing education class that explains veterans benefits to social workers at the University of Pittsburgh. Through lecturing and through his book, he passes on tips, including one that lets people know that some surviving spouses of veterans may be eligible for a pension.
The focus of his book explains how to apply for the Aid and Attendance pension and the Housebound pension.
The Aid and Attendance pension provides $1,644 monthly tax-free to veterans to pay for assisted living or home care, as well as for free medications. Income eligibility for the program is limited to veterans who served during wartime (not necessarily in a wartime theater) and to those who have less than $80,000 in assets (not including the value of their home).
Mr. McCarthy said the available benefits can make a huge difference in the quality of life of a veteran.
"There are a lot of veterans who need help caring for themselves while living at home, or who need financial help paying for assisted living. ... If somebody came by and handed you a check -- that's life-changing," he said.
Mr. McCarthy, 57, is not a veteran. He said he wrote his book because no one else had written a similar one and because he understands the topic. He has been speaking and lecturing on it for nine years.
Mr. McCarthy said some veterans who served stateside might be surprised to learn they are eligible for benefits. The group of veterans who are eligible is growing for those who served during the Vietnam War, with about 8 million Vietnam era veterans soon to be eligible, he said.
"My [late] father-in-law served during World War II in the Navy in Alaska and he would've been eligible," Mr. McCarthy said.
Veterans can get help filling out the required paperwork for pensions from the American Legion, Mr. Mc- Carthy noted.
Andrew Sykes, managing attorney of Mt. Lebanon-based Sykes Elder Law, has been working in the area of elder law for a dozen years. He first met Mr. McCarthy years ago, when he learned of his expertise through a fellow member of the Allegheny County Bar Association. Mr. Sykes invited Mr. McCarthy to speak to his group.
Mr. Sykes said he is impressed with Mr. Mc- Carthy's passion for helping veterans. The veteran's advocate's book takes the process of applying for veterans benefits and breaks it down into an easy-to-understand narrative, detailing how much money a veteran can get, where to find one's discharge papers, who is eligible for the benefits and other important facts, he said.
"The book is really practical for people who might be eligible for benefits. It walks you through the process," Mr. Sykes said
The book costs $29.95 retail, $26.95 at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.com. It is also available at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 2705 E. Carson St., South Side. For more information, visit www.checksforvets.com or call toll free 877-249-8387.
First Published January 21, 2010 6:25 am