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Ann O’Connor’s husband John was a World War II and a Korean War veteran, a man who faithfully served his country.
During his final years, John’s country served him, O’Connor said, by providing a little-known veterans benefit called Aid and Attendance, under the Improved Pension Program (IPP) payable by the Department of Veteran Affairs, according to the American Association for Wartime Veterans website.
Aid and Attendance is for housebound, wartime veterans requiring assistance for daily living activities. To qualify, the veteran must have a minimum of 90 days of active duty. At least one of those days must have occurred during a war period, said Robert Hart, an independent agent with the American Association for Wartime Veterans.
Hart will present a free informational Aid and Attendance seminar at 7 p.m. Nov. 26 at the Timbers of Shorewood, 1100 N. River Road, Shorewood.
O’Connor had learned about the benefit through such a seminar and is glad she did.
That extra money meant that when John became ill, O’Connor could hire someone to bathe and dress him, first at the Timbers of Shorewood — where O’Connor still lives — and later at a nursing home when John needed more focused care.
To her surprise, the American Association for Wartime Veterans, the private company that helped O’Connor prepare the paperwork, charged her nothing.
“Bob Hart was wonderful,” O’Connor said. “He explained everything and set it all up. It’s a very good program. Veterans need all the help they can get.”
Navigating the paperwork process is difficult and cumbersome, Hart said, which is why his company assists veterans and their families. A lawyer authorized by the Department of Veteran Affairs actually submits the paperwork, he said.
Even so, it took O’Connor’s husband seven months to be approved. Hart said a new fast-track program the Department of Veteran Affairs began several months ago often cuts that time by half.
“I did have one approved in three weeks but that’s one in 51/2 years,” said Hart, who started working for the American Association for Wartime Veterans in 2008. “We hope to speed things up for people. For seniors close to being out of money, that’s a big deal.”
Hart said he makes no money on about 70 percent of the cases for which he assists. In those cases where he does get paid, it’s not the families paying the bill. Hart said veterans and families should be wary of companies that charge large or hidden fees to complete a claim.
“We’re not here to make every last dollar off people,” Hart said. “We help a lot of people who are about to run out of money. You can’t help but feel good about that.”
Some of those people remember and repay the kindness. Several years ago, when Hart was seriously ill and lost five months of work, veterans’ family members reached out to Hart, saying, “You helped our dad get benefits.”
One family from south of Kankakee, Hart said, drove twice to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to visit him.
“We still go out to dinner twice a year,” Hart said.
For information, call 815-609-0669 or visit www.usawarvet.org.
By Denise Baran-Unland
Joliet Herald News – Nov. 22, 2013