The History of Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Benefits
An Evolutionary History of Aid & Attendance
Centuries ago, in the first half of the 1600s, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony fought a battle with the Pequot Indians. Soldiers wounded in this battle were cared for by the Colony, according to a law the Pilgrims passed for that purpose.
About 150 years later, when our country was brand new, a fledgling Congress established a pension plan for veterans as a form of delayed payment for service in the American Revolution. Soldiers wounded in that war received medical care from their individual States and communities. The very first medical hospital for veterans was established by the federal government in 1811. In addition, benefits were extended to the widows and dependents of veterans.
Half a century later, during the Civil War, President Lincoln recognized the great debt owed to veterans and awarded them additional benefits. As a result, federal benefits for veterans grew and became less organized, overseen by several different entities. It wasn’t until after World War I that Congress consolidated the various arms of the servicemen’s benefactors into the Veterans Administration.
The original GI Bill was drafted by the American Legion and signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1944 and went a long way toward educating and providing for the servicemen returning from World War II. But as those servicemen aged, it became apparent that a great need had not been met: the need to pay continually rising and often staggering healthcare costs for the elderly.
So in 1952, during the golden age of economic surplus, the Department of Veterans Affairs, as we know it today, was established under Title 38 of the US Code. This is a mandated law that must be funded every year.
Many benefits for veterans and their families came out of this in two distinct forms: Service-Connected Disability Compensation and Non-Service-Connected Pension. Aid & Attendance is a non-service-connected pension, meaning that to qualify, a veteran need not have suffered a disability due to his service in the military. And it is also available to a veteran’s dependents.
Aid & Attendance was created to help pay the cost of caring for elderly veterans and their dependents, who can no longer care for themselves. A&A is a tax-free pension, paid monthly for the rest of the veteran’s (or dependent’s) life. It’s subject to annual review for cost of living increases and was last increased this year.