My great-uncle Rady Bradley was a radio and radar operator in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII.
His job was to locate enemy planes, ships and submarines. When he returned from the war in Europe to his home in Corinth, Miss., in October of 1945, he had no idea that he would play a major role in helping many veterans he never knew obtain benefits they each had earned by their military service to our nation -- benefits all but hidden from their view.
He and other WWII veterans were welcomed home with much honor and patriotic pride. Getting reacquainted with life as a civilian was often a trying time for him and those with whom he had served, but he threw himself into his career and the memories of far off lands began to fade.
After his military service, Rady sustained an injury to his eye. He lived with this condition for a long time, enduring the pain but able to get by for 40 years. He finally had surgery to correct the condition in the late ‘90s, but things didn’t go well. The surgery left Rady legally blind.
As a teenager, I worked for him in his feed store. In fact, his youngest son is one day younger than me, so we grew up together with deep family ties.
When I became a practicing attorney, Rady and I discussed his lingering eyesight problem. As an estate planning lawyer, I did not handle veterans’ pensions, so I began to research just what additional pension benefits might be available through the VA.
As a result of my search for an improvement in Rady’s circumstances, I discovered a very obscure pension for wartime veterans that few in or outside of the VA knew about. Rady qualified for this extra pension benefit immediately. He received the Aid and Attendance Improved Pension benefits for about three years before he passed away.
By that time, his wife had developed memory loss, so she met the medical needs requirement for the pension benefits as the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran.
We reapplied for her and since her assets were below the maximum amount allowed (today the maximum allowed asset level is $129,061) she received the full benefits until her passing. Today, qualified surviving spouses like her receive just under $15,000 per year tax-free. And, a qualified veteran and his spouse together can receive up to $27,000 per year tax-free.
After working with Rady and Margaret Elizabeth to obtain these valuable benefits, I began to realize that if it was so hard for us to find out about this pension and how to qualify for it, many others would probably face the same obstacles. I decided to learn more about how I might be able to help my estate planning clients who were qualified wartime veterans improve their circumstances.
As a result, I earned accreditation from the VA and have been privileged to help many veterans and their spouses obtain this pension benefit.
Because of our search for VA benefits to compensate him for his injury, the lives of a large number of other veterans and their spouses have been improved. Rady would be proud.
J. Anthony Bradley is a VA Accredited Attorney with offices in Southaven and Germantown