Many wartime veterans and their surviving spouses are currently receiving long-term care or will need some type of long-term care soon. The Veterans Administration has funds that are available to help pay for this care, yet many families are not even aware that these benefits exist.
Pension with Aid and Attendance pays the highest amount and benefits a veteran or surviving spouse who requires assistance in activities of daily living (dressing, undressing, eating, toileting, etc.), is blind, or is a patient in a nursing home. Assisted care in an assisted living facility also qualifies.
Pension with Housebound Allowance is for those who need regular assistance but would not meet the more stringent requirements for Aid and Attendance and wish to remain in their own home or the home of a family member. Care can be provided by family members or outside caregiver agencies.
There are several benefits available to seniors in need of long-term care, including Medi-Cal and Medicare, but the Aid and Attendance benefit through the VA is one of the best out there for veterans and their spouses. The Aid and Attendance benefit is for war era veterans and their surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in at least two of the daily living activities such as, bathing, dressing, eating, transferring, and toileting.
Basic Pension is for veterans and surviving spouses who are age 65 or older or are disabled, and who have limited income and assets.
Qualifying for Benefits
There are a few qualifications that veterans and their spouses need to meet to become eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, the most important being the veteran’s term of service. To qualify, the veteran had to have served at least 90 days in the military with one of those days being considered wartime service. While the veteran does not have to display any service-related disabilities to qualify, they must need help with the above-mentioned activities of daily living.
There are also income and asset limitations that must be met to qualify for Aid and Attendance. As of 2019, the asset and income limit are $127,061 – but importantly, this does not count the applicant’s house as an asset. There are also several deductions that can be made for medical expenses that can help applicants reach the asset limit, including healthcare premiums, prescriptions, long-term care costs, and in-home or assisted living costs.
One thing to keep in mind when applying for the Aid and Attendance benefit is that like Medi-Cal, there is a look-back period where the VA checks through all your financial transactions for transfers.
The look-back period is three years, and the VA looks for any large transfers that put the applicant below the income limit. If any of these transfers occur, the VA can assess a penalty period during which the applicant is ineligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit. The penalty period is determined by how much the transfer impacted the asset and income limit—in other words, the penalty is assessed by how many assets the applicant would have if they had not made the transfer.
Note: It is possible to reduce assets and income to a level that will be acceptable to the VA. For example, excess liquid assets (such as cash or stocks) could be converted to an income stream using an annuity or promissory note. However, because the claimant may need to qualify for Medicaid in the future, it is critical that any restructuring or gifting of assets be done in a way that will not jeopardize or delay Medicaid benefits. An attorney who has experience with Elder Law will be able to provide valuable assistance with this.
Applying for Benefits
It often takes the VA more than a year to decide, but once approved, benefits are paid retroactively to the month after the application is submitted. Having proper documentation (discharge papers, medical evidence, proof of medical expenses, death certificate, marriage certificate and a properly completed application) when the application is submitted can greatly reduce the processing time.
Because time is critical for these aging veterans and their surviving spouses, application should be made as soon as possible. For more information, visit https://www.va.gov.