Only a small number of US wartime veterans are benefitting from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) “Aid and Attendance” pension program. More than one third of Americans over the age of 65 are wartime veterans or are spouses wartime vets. And most of them are not aware that the program pays for long term care for senior veterans – a financial lifeline in case of a health crisis.
This quick guide prepares veterans and their families in starting the process of securing long term care benefits so that they will have access to them when they need it most.
What is VA Pension?
VA Pension is supplemental income to wartime veterans or their surviving spouses through the Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefit programs. Pension benefits are needs-based and your “countable” family income must fall below the yearly limit set by Congress.
What is Aid & Attendance?
Aid and Attendance benefit is additional financial support on top of basic pension for veterans or their surviving spouses who are housebound due to disability. It is also referred to as VA Assisted Living Benefit or Veteran’s Elder Care Benefit. Being enrolled in the pension program is a prerequisite to claiming Aid and Attendance benefits and is generally referred to as “improved pension.”
Who are considered “Wartime Veterans”?
Veterans (and consequently, their surviving spouses) are eligible for VA Pension and Aid & Attendance benefits if the veteran served at least 90 days of active duty during wartime.
The list of wartime dates are as follows:
- WORLD WAR II: December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946.
- KOREAN CONFLICT: June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955.
- VIETNAM WAR: August 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975, although veterans who served in Vietnam itself (“in country”) as early as February 28, 1961, may also qualify.
- GULF WAR: August 2, 1990, to a future date. (For VA benefits eligibility purposes, the Gulf War period is still in effect, which means that anyone who served on active duty from August 2, 1990, to present is considered a Gulf War veteran. Therefore, totally disabled veterans may qualify for Aid & Attendance or housebound benefits.)
How Much BenefIt Will Qualified Veterans Get?
The amount for Basic Pension and Aid and Attendance benefit depends on the income of the applicant and the actual cost of personal care services paid monthly. Here’s the rate sheet summarized from the Veterans Assistance website for quick reference.
How Does the VA Send Payments?
The money is directly deposited to the enrolled bank account of the veteran or beneficiary. In cases where the beneficiary does not have a bank account, the VA sends payments via Direct Express Debit Mastercard.
How Long is the Application and Approval Process?
It’s a slow and uncertain process that takes months. Applicants over 90 years old may send a formal written request to have their applications expedited. While the application and approval process may be frustratingly slow, the VA pays benefits retroactively uup the date of approval.
Who is Eligible for Pension Benefits?
Generally, a veteran or the spouse of a veteran who has served at least 90 days in active duty during wartime, age 65 years and older with limited or no income is eligible to apply for pension benefits.
Aside from that, the veteran or the surviving spouse must also be able to meet any one of the following criteria:
- Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance
- Totally and Permanently Disabled
- Receiving Supplemental Security Income
- A Patient In a Nursing Home
Who is Eligible for Aid & Attendance Benefits?
The veteran or the spouse of a veteran who is already qualified to receive basic pension may also qualify for Aid & Attendance benefits if any of these conditions are met:
- Requires the aid of another person in order to perform some tasks of everyday living, for example – assistance with bathing, feeding, preparing meals, taking medications, dressing, using the restroom, adjusting prosthetic devices and/or providing daily oversight to help ensure safety.
- Bedridden, apart from any prescribed course of treatment or therapy.
- A patient in a nursing home, due to a mental or physical incapacity such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
- Eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity OR less in both eyes OR concentric contraction of the visual field to five degrees or less.
Are the costs of Personal Care Services covered in VA Aid & Attendance?
VA defines Personal Care Services as “requiring the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions for everyday living such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment”
When applying for Aid & Attendance benefits, the monthly cost of Personal Care Services in various elder care communities and facilities may be deducted from countable income. Here are some examples:
1. Retirement Community
Aid & Attendance typically cannot be used to pay for independent living itself. However, it may help cover the cost of personal care. If an applicant was denied pension benefits while residing in an independent living community and then later moved to an assisted living community because their need for assistance has progressed, that person may now qualify for benefits.
2. Assisted Living Community
If the applicant meets clinical requirements for Aid & Attendance and the assisted living community is helping with personal care needs, then typically, the monthly amount paid to the assisted living community is deducted from the gross income.
3. Memory Care Community
Memory care communities are secured so that residents cannot wander off and becomelost. Most residents who reside in a memory care community qualify for Aid &Attendance clinically as a result of their dementia diagnosis.
4. Residential Care Home
As with assisted living, Aid & Attendance benefits can help pay for personal careservices residential care homes but only if the home is licensed by the state.
5. Nursing Home
Nursing homes are generally for patients who are bedridden and require round-the-clock care. The national average cost of a nursing home is over $7,000 permonth.
Aid & Attendance can be used to help pay for a nursing home, except when the nursing home patient is already receiving Medic-Aid or Medi-Cal. Aid & Attendance will not pay more than $90 per month to someone who is already receiving or will soon be eligible for Medic-Aid. However, nursing home patients who reside in state veterans homes are exempt from this ruling.
6. In-Home Care
The cost of in-home care from a licensed agency or private caregiver providing personal care services to a qualified veteran, may be deducted from gross income when applying for housebound or Aid & Attendance pensions.
7. Adult Day Services
The amount paid for adult day services (average of $70 a day) may be deducted from gross income when applying for housebound or Aid & Attendance pensions.
Can Low-Income, Able-Bodied Veterans Apply for Aid & Attendance Benefit?
Qualified veterans with low incomes who are totally able-bodied, may qualify for a smaller amount of Aid & Attendance benefit. When no personal care is necessary, the benefit is extended as general financial assistance:
- Able-bodied Single Veteran – $1,128 per month
- Able-bodied Surviving Spouse – $1,006 per month
- Able-bodied Couple – $1,477 per month
Once you’ve determined that you might qualify for VA Pension and Attendance and Aid Benefits, book your free consultation meeting with our team at Crider Law and we’ll help you apply for the benefits that you so rightfully deserve for your service.
Whether it’s your first time to file a claim, pursuing an appeal or just want to learn more about your rights and entitlements under the VA pension program, we will support you every step of the way.