Headshot of Eric Leonard
Headshot of Eric Leonard
Eric Leonard

National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day is today. Unfortunately, many Korean War veterans and their caregivers who may be celebrating the relatively new Armistice Day are not aware of all the VA benefits they have earned. This lack of awareness creates an opportunity for home care providers and other professionals to educate seniors with this life-changing information.

Many wartime veterans count themselves out because they don’t have combat duty, overseas service or service-related injuries.

Korean War veterans or their surviving spouses who qualify can take advantage of a benefit called the Aid and Attendance Pension. It helps seniors receive assistance with the chores of daily living to age safely in place.

The benefit is a tax-free, monthly, monetary payment available to certain wartime veterans with financial need, along with their survivors. It is designed for veterans who do not have a service-connected disability resulting from their military activity and is available for those who need the “aid and attendance” of another person for their routine daily living activities.

Veterans Home Care, through its VetAssist Program, offers help to secure the Aid and Attendance pension for those who want to use the funds primarily for home care or adult daycare. Unlike others, VetAssist also gets care started right away. The company can provide an interest-free loan covering home care expenses while the VA processes the claim. The loan also establishes an allowable deduction to a claimant’s countable income, which increases likelihood of entitlement. In short, the VetAssist Program is designed to take care of the men and women who protected our country during wartime.

Elsie "Mickey" LaDuke
Elsie “Mickey” LaDuke served during the Korean
War and earned VA benefits that now cover the
cost of her in-home care.

Mickey LaDuke is a 93-year-old female veteran who enlisted with the US Army during the Korean War. She still lives independently in Waco, TX, thanks to the help of VetAssist caregivers.

An outspoken character, Mickey coincidentally celebrates her birthday on July 25, just two days prior to Korean Armistice Day on July 27.

Debbie Jones at the local Area Agency on Aging told Mickey about the Aid and Attendance benefit and referred her to the VetAssist Program in 2015. VetAssist helped Mickey file her claim and contacted the Visiting Angels in Waco, a VetAssist network provider who now helps keep Mickey independent. Mrs. LaDuke has been utilizing VetAssist® services for six years.

“I was shocked to find about it,” Mickey said. “I didn’t know anything about the program or that I was entitled to the benefit because I had served during the Korean outbreak. My angels change the bed, help me dress, do light housework, cooking — whatever I need them to do. My muscles aren’t what they used to be and I need the help. I couldn’t afford it without the VA benefits.”

Mickey enjoys discussing her most interesting military career. She served in the Army from 1949-52 and was on the frontlines in the battle against diseases, much like those fighting Covid-19 today.

Disease was a constant during her military career. After basic training, she was sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio as a medical technician. “Bedpan commando,” she says with a laugh.

The polio epidemic was the scourge of the country then. Mickey worked in the pediatric ward, which housed infected children who were isolated in quarantine for long periods of time. 

“Parents weren’t allowed to visit much, so I would take my mask off to give those babies hugs and kisses,” she said. “I got yelled at a lot for not having my mask up, but I figured they needed some cuddling.

Tuberculosis was also a threat then and Mickey’s husband contracted it. He was sent to Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver, and she transferred along with him. Many of the patients she helped care for were soldiers who contracted TB fighting in Korea.

Mickey worked in the wards, putting on a fresh gown and disinfecting her hands every time she went into a different room.

Today, Mickey, known as “Grammy Mickey” among family and friends, enjoys reading and watches a little TV.

Social agencies and in-home care agencies should check the military backgrounds of their clients to see if they, like Mickey, served during wartime. Many who did, or their surviving spouses, will qualify for the Aid and Attendance pension.

As we observe National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, a little research by home care providers can be a small step for those who took many giant steps to help our country.

Eric Leonard is Veterans Home Care’s vice president of the Pacific and West territory.

This article originally appeared on McKnight's Senior Living