VA Guide to Activities of Daily Living

What do Activities of Daily Living mean?

US Veterans Affairs defines Activities of Daily Living or ADLs, as tasks of everyday life that are essential to perform one’s ability to live independently. The following tasks are referred to as ADLs:

  1. Eating,
  2. Bathing/showering,
  3. Dressing,
  4. Using the toilet (continence), and
  5. Transferring (mobility as in transferring from a chair to standing)

What is the purpose of assessing ADLs?

The purpose of assessing ADLs is to determine a veteran’s eligibility for Housebound Pension or Aid and Attendance benefits. It provides important information on the veteran’s functional abilities, progress in rehabilitation and identifying necessary assistance to support daily living. VA nurses, case managers, physical therapists and occupational therapists will work with the veteran to complete the assessment of ADLs.

What are Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)?

IADLs are tasks that are essential to leading a fully independent, functional and responsible life. The following are referred to as IADLs:

  • Shopping for food
  • Cooking
  • Doing laundry
  • Housecleaning
  • Managing money
  • Managing medications
  • Driving/using public transportation
  • Using the phone

What are Compensatory Skills?(IADLs)?

Compensatory Skills are new ways for a veteran to accomplish Activities of Daily Living with the help of another person or a caregiver. Physical and occupational therapists will help identify which compensatory skills would be the best fit for the Veteran’s specific needs. They will teach you and the Veteran to develop these skills. Some examples of compensatory skills are:

  • Training and adaptation to handle activities such as dressing, bathing, toileting, grooming and feeding.
  • Creating or identifying new methods to complete tasks in a way that accommodates changes in the Veteran’s abilities.
  • Helping the Veteran to re-learn basic skills like cooking and grooming that may have been lost due to injuries such as TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), for example.
  • Training and adaptation for activities such as shopping, running errands or handling finances.
  • Working with employers and/or schools to adapt the work or home environment so the Veteran is able to do his or her best.
  • Helping to identify and develop healthy, fulfilling hobbies or other activities if he or she can’t return to work.

Does assessing ADL help with claiming VA benefits?

Yes. The VA extends assistance to veterans unable to perform ADLs, such as when a disabled veteran (or the surviving spouse of a veteran) seeks financial aid for in-home care. A veteran with two or more ADLs as a result of physical or mental disability  qualifies for Long-Term Care benefits under the VA.

What is the VA Criteria for Aid and Attendance Besides ADLs?

Besides needing assistance with ADLs, the VA’s other criteria for Aid and Attendance eligibility is when a person:

  • Has corrected vision of 5/200 or less in both eyes; or
  • Has concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees; or
  • Is a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity; or
  • Is bedridden apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment

ADLs in VA vs Medicare – Is there a difference?

Yes. stipulates that help with basic personal tasks such as ADLs do not qualify as medical care. It defines support with ADLs as: custodial care,unskilled care or long-term care. This is an important distinction to understand when checking into long-term care options for seniors.

On the other hand, qualified Veterans or their surviving spouse requiring assistance for ADLs are entitled to financial aid for long term care, home care or custodial care under the VA pension program.

What’s next?

If you need more information about Activities for Daily Living in order to qualify for VA Pension and Aid & Attendance benefits, book your free consultation meeting with us and we’ll help you apply for the financial assistance you so rightfully deserve for your service.


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Davis, CA 95616

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Sacramento, CA 95825

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Roseville, CA 95616

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San Antonio, TX 78258

We operate on an appointment-only basis other than our Davis office.

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