VA Aid and Attendance
Senior Veterans and Their Survivng Spouses
America’s veterans deserve the best health care and compensation systems we can provide. Most people are unaware of the benefits available to senior veterans and their surviving spouses who are are faced with the high cost of long-term care.
Federal regulations allow VA to pay an additional income to a household of a veteran or surviving spouse if they have a significant physical or medical need for the regular aid and attendance from another person or are housebound. The amount of additional income paid to the household depends on the “rating” assigned by the VA that is based on the review of doctor’s examinations of the claimant. A “rating for aid and attendance” is given when VA determines that the claimant is in need of regular personal custodial care or the “aid and attendance” of another person. Without this rating, most claimants are not eligible for Pension as their income is generally greater than VA’s limits and their medical expenses are not considered deductible. Deducting expenses is how claimants can bring their income below VA’s income limits and will lead to an award.
Most claimants living outside of a nursing home are not automatically granted a rating of aid and attendance even if they are living in an assisted living community. But, many veterans or surviving spouses can still prove they are eligible for the higher rating even if they are living independently. Fewer than 5% of all people who could qualify for this benefit actually receive it because they do not know of the benefit or it is assumed they will not qualify.
Financial Benefits Available to Senior Veterans
VA is divided into two branches. One of those branches is the Veteran’s Health Administration. Its primary purpose is to provide health care for prior service members. This would include being able to use VA hospitals, VA nursing homes, state VA nursing homes, prescription drug benefits and many other outpatient services. The other branch is the Veteran’s Benefits Administration. This branch administers monetary benefits programs for eligible veterans. This branch includes the “Aid and Attendance” (for a veteran, veteran with spouse or just the spouse in need of extra medical help) and the other pension called “Improved Pension” (for a “healthy” veteran and a spouse in need of extra medical help). Both of these pensions are available to offset the cost of necessary health care.
Both of these financial benefits are unknown to most veterans. A person must meet certain criteria to be eligible for either type of benefit. Our VA accredited attorneys assist military families navigate and obtain VA benefits available to them.
Basic eligibility is comprised of three requirements. First, the claimant (or the claimant’s deceased spouse) must be a veteran. Second, the veteran must have been discharged under a condition other than dishonorable. Third, the veteran must have served 90 days of continuous active duty before 1980 or 24 months after 1980 with at least one day of that continuous active duty during wartime, (although the veteran need not have been in a combat zone). Discharge paperwork is required at the time of application.
Under current law, VA recognizes the following wartime periods to determine eligibility for VA Pension benefits:
- World War I (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918)
- World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946)
- Korean Conflict (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955)
- Vietnam era (February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975)
- Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – through a future date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation)
There Are Income And Financial Net Worth Limitations To Become Eligible
The VA defines income as payments of any kind from any source using the gross amount of income rather than the net. It is also “household” income of the veteran, spouse, and any dependent children, calculated on an annualized basis. This means that a monthly rate of income is projected for the twelve months following the date of the VA claim.
The VA defines net worth of the estate as: The market value, less mortgages or other encumbrances, of all real and personal property owned by the claimant, except the claimant’s dwelling (single family unit), including a reasonable lot area, and personal effects suitable to and consistent with the claimant’s reasonable mode of life. Assuming a veteran (and/or his or her spouse) has tentatively qualified for Aid and Attendance, the final test to complete the qualification process relates to the net worth of the applicant. With the exception of the applicant’s home, an automobile, traditional household furnishings and personal property (which are treated as non-countable), most attorneys knowledgeable in this specialty will advise veterans applying for benefits to maintain no more than one of the following cash asset levels:
- Couple $80,000
- Individual $40,000
PLEASE NOTE all numbers these are extremely fluid, and not necessarily in favor of veterans and their families. Each case must be carefully evaluated by an accredited VA attorney.
Because the Veterans Administration looks only at the applicant’s net worth at the time of the actual Aid and Attendance application (with no penalty period for a transfer of assets made before filing the application), just about any veteran or spouse can, with proper planning, qualify for the pension if assets are given away to children or other family members. While the thought of giving away assets sounds drastic or unthinkable, using a special trust can qualify the veteran or spouse for Aid and Attendance benefits while allowing the applicant to retain a significant amount of control over the assets given away. Unlike Medicaid, there is no penalty for “gifting” and there is “no look back” period.
There Are Medical Requirements Of The Veteran, Or His Or Her Single Surviving Spouse
The phrase “permanently and totally disabled’ means that a veteran must require care or assistance on a regular basis, which protects him or her from the potential danger of a daily living environment. This phrase can be established by showing one or more of the following conditions:
- The veteran or surviving spouse is blind or has visual impairment of 5/200 or less in both eyes or concentric contraction of the visual field to five degrees or less;
- The veteran or surviving spouse is a patient in a nursing home or hospice facility because of mental or physical incapacity:
- The veteran or surviving spouse is unable to dress or undress or keep him or herself clean and presentable;
- The veteran or surviving spouse needs adjustments to any special prosthetic, orthopedic appliance, or is not able to attend the want of nature; or;
- The veteran or surviving spouse has a physical or mental incapacity that requires assistance on a regular basis to protect the veteran from the hazards of his or her environment;
- The veteran or surviving spouse is living in an assisted living property.
How Much Is Available to Senior Veterans and Their Surviving Spouses?
The Veterans Aid and Attendance pension is a tax-free benefit and paid directly to the applicant. It is important to note that it could take up to 10 months from the date of application to start receiving the benefit. Once approved, Aid and Attendance is paid retroactive from the first day of the month following receipt of the application by the Veterans Administration. Our attorneys and legal professionals will be with you every step of the way.
NOTE: The Aid and Attendance monthly pension benefit amount received by the veteran (and/or his or her spouse) is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the following formula:
THE TOTAL MONTHLY INCOME OF THE VETERAN AND/OR VETERAN’S SPOUSE, MINUS THE TOTAL MONTHLY COST OF THE UNREIMBURSED MEDICAL EXPENSES. This gets complicated. Let us help you work through all of this. The maximum amounts payable are below, in the following categories:
- Veteran without spouse: $1,758/mo
- Veteran with spouse: $2,058/mo
- “Unremarrried” Surviving Spouse: $1,130/mo
How Can We Help Senior Veterans In Tarrant and Surrounding Areas?
Most elder law attorneys have little to no experience with veterans benefits. Most veterans benefits representatives do not fully understand the legal aspects of planning. We have caring, knowledgeable accredited VA attorneys ready and willing to review your situation, explain the eligibility requirements, and lead you down the best path for you. We understand each family has individual needs and we can go over all available options during your free consultation. To arrange a free consultation with our experienced estate planning lawyers and legal team, please call 800-958-4948 or complete our online form.