The last year has prompted many Americans to rethink end-of-life planning. In a recent study by VITA, 69 percent of participants agreed that talking and planning for their end-of-life wishes is important. However, for the senior veteran population, there remains a growing gap in their knowledge or preparation for such events. A previous Harvard Public Citizens study found that 1.53 million veterans were uninsured, and one in 12 of them cannot afford annual care. A similar amount do not have wills or a plan documenting their wishes for administering and distributing their estate. While making end-of-life plans can be an uncomfortable topic, it is a necessity for many families – particularly veteran families.
Think Ahead With An Advanced Directive
There are three different types of advanced directives: living will, power of attorney, and a health care proxy. These are used to designate your wishes for medical and mental care if you’re not able to make those decisions yourself. For veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans has Form 10-0137, and it includes sections on wishes for any medical treatments (or refusal) and a durable power of attorney for healthcare. However, before choosing someone to make those decisions for you, it is advised that you have a conversation with them.
As a retired veteran, the VA will honor all kinds of advanced directives, but also allows veterans to complete their advanced directive form privately. However, the VA Form 10-0137 has more details, and combines both types of advanced directives into one. If you’re unfamiliar with the VA guidelines on advanced directives, the VA’s What You Should Know About Advanced Directives (Form 10-0137B) provides some useful insight into common questions like acceptance of advanced directives across state borders. Remember to submit a copy of your advanced directive to your healthcare provider and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for your records.
Check That Your Miltary Life Insurance Coverage Is Up To Date
Another thing to think about when planning for end-of-life care is the cost. For non-military Americans, the average out-of-pocket costs for end-of-life obligations is $11,618 in the last year of your life. While veterans have access to benefits like the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), there may still be gaps in the cost, particularly if you’re not up to date with your paperwork.
For instance, to establish eligibility for military funeral honors, you need to complete DD Form 214: Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty. It is also recommended that you consider planning for the financial implications of your retirement or health issues. The Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI) provides up to $200,000 of coverage for veterans with service-connected injuries. While it can provide great relief for veterans and their families, it may sometimes not be enough. A Hero Loan or other alternative home financing can provide veteran loan options if you’re retired and want to own a home later in life.
Get Help With Writing Your Will
A stunning 60 percent of people do not have a will. However, in the unfortunate event of your death, having a will considerably simplifies the estate distribution process. If a military officer dies without a will and is unmarried, then his estate will be distributed according to state laws. Most states give the estate to their parents or are equally divided amongst siblings. If you are married with no kids, then the chances are that your estate will pass to your widow. Single veterans with children have their assets passed onto their children in an equal distribution. If your wishes for your estate do not align with your state laws, then you should spend time writing a will. For help writing your will as a veteran, organizations like The Soldiers Charity and The Writing Guild Foundation provide dedicated advice and a free will writing service.
Even if you are not ready to make these decisions yet, getting the conversation started with loved ones can make a difference. There will never feel like there’s a good time for the conversation; the important thing is that you have it.
Updated: June 13, 2021