Are you Eligible to Apply for Veterans Benefits?
Many families struggle to provide necessary care for aging or disabled Veterans or their surviving spouses. Unfortunately, most of these families are unaware of an important benefit available through the Department of Veterans Affairs to which their loved ones may be entitled. It is called Aid and Attendance. Our elder law attorneys can help you apply for Veterans Benefits.
For qualifying veterans, Aid and Attendance is paid in addition to the basic pension rate for seriously disabled wartime veterans who have limited or no income, and who are age 65 or older, or, if under 65, who are permanently and totally disabled.
Some key things to know about the Aid and Attendance benefit:
- Aid and Attendance is a pension benefit and is not dependent upon service-related injuries.
- Wartime veterans and their surviving spouses may be eligible.
- Certain medical and financial requirements must be met.
- Aid and Attendance can help pay for care in the home, nursing home or assisted living facility.
The Application Process
Application for Aid and Attendance Benefits is a complex and lengthy process. The forms are available for you to do this yourself, but be advised that if you apply and your application is denied, you must wait a year before you can reapply. For these reasons, many people seek assistance in completing the application. Note: It is illegal for anyone to charge you a fee to help complete the application or file for benefits.
The Aid and Attendance Benefit – How Much Could You Receive?
The cost of assisted living, nursing home or home health care can be substantial. In fact, a 2019 survey conducted by Genworth Financial found that the national median monthly rate for a one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility runs $4,051, the national median monthly rate for a semi-private nursing home room is $7,513, and the national median monthly rate for a licensed home health aide is $4,385. Veterans benefits for assisted living through the Aid and Attendance Benefits could help defray these types of costs for qualified veterans and their surviving spouses.
The 2020 Maximum Monthly Benefits*
Basic Veterans Pension / Basic Survivors Pension
- The maximum benefit amount for a veteran who does not have a spouse or dependent child is $1,146 / month.
- The maximum benefit amount for a married veteran is $1,501 / month.
- For a surviving spouse without any dependent children, the maximum benefit amount is $769 / month.
Aid & Attendance Pension for Veterans / Surviving Spouses
The A&A Pension is a monetary “add on” to the Basic Veterans / Survivors Pension. The amounts below are the maximum benefit amount a veteran or surviving spouse may be entitled to for Basic Veterans / Survivor Pension plus Aid & Attendance Pension.
- The maximum benefit amount for a veteran who does not have a spouse or dependent child is $1,912 / month.
- The maximum benefit amount for a married veteran is $2,266 / month.
- The maximum benefit amount for a surviving spouse is $1,230 / month.
Housebound Pension for Veterans / Surviving Spouses
The Housebound Pension is a cash “add on” to the Basic Veterans / Survivors Pension. The benefit amounts below are the maximum monetary amounts a veteran or survivor spouse may be able to receive for Basic Veterans / Survivor Pension plus Housebound Pension.
- The maximum benefit amount for a veteran who does not have a spouse or dependent child is $1,400 / month.
- The maximum benefit amount for a veteran with a spouse is $1,755 / month.
- The maximum benefit amount for a surviving spouse under the Housebound Pension is $939 / month.
*Note: these maximum benefit amounts may fluctuate and the actual benefit that is approved may be less.
Who is Eligible to Receive Aid and Attendance Benefits?
There are three aspects of eligibility – Service, Medical, and Financial.
Service. The basic service qualification is that the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military duty, with at least one of those days during wartime (as defined by the Veteran’s Administration). Additionally, the veteran must have received a discharge that was other than dishonorable.
Medical. The veteran or surviving spouse must show that they require the “aid and attendance” of another person to perform the basic activities of daily living. The Veterans Administration defines the need for aid and attendance as:
- Requiring the aid of another person to perform personal functions required in 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, or
- Being blind or nearly blind, or
- Being bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities requires that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, or
- Being a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity.
Financial. Qualifying under the asset test can be tricky. The basic requirements state that the person requesting the benefit must have a financial need. Each application is evaluated individually.
How Can I Qualify for Aid and Attendance Benefits?
As with any government program, the rules governing eligibility are in a constant state of flux. With federal budgets stretched to the limit with deficit spending, expect the rules governing financial eligibility to become stricter. Basically, you must have limited financial resources, both in terms of “countable income” and in net worth. Beware that some actions taken to qualify for VA benefits could create a penalty period, or perhaps even disqualify you entirely from receiving Medicaid benefits should they be needed. These actions include any attempts to rearrange your income and/or assets to qualify.
Countable Income Requirements for 2020
Your “countable income” must be less than the Maximum Annual Pension Rate. In other words, a veteran or surviving spouse cannot have annual income greater than the maximum annual VA pension benefit amount he or she potentially can receive. Don’t forget that the income of both spouses is counted for married veterans.
So what does “countable income” include? It is simply all of the income a veteran or surviving spouse receives, regardless of source. These sources may include earnings from work, retirement and pension payments, social security, and social security disability payments. Nevertheless, “countable income” may be reduced by subtracting Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UMEs) from annual income. What are some examples of UMEs? They include the cost of home health services, dentures, hearing aids, wheelchairs, premiums for health insurance, and even prescription drugs. Although UMEs may be deducted to lower countable income, increasing the pension benefit amount, it is not that simple. The calculations can be rather complicated.
Net Worth Requirements for 2020
Just like with “countable income,” the net worth of a veteran or a surviving spouse must be limited to be eligible. The VA made some dramatic changes regarding how net worth is treated back in 2018, when it imposed a limit of $127,061. Now, at least until December 1, 2020, that limit is $129,094. Net worth includes savings and checking accounts, mutual funds, stocks, and vacation homes. Interestingly, your primary residence is not include in your assets when calculating your net worth for eligibility purposes.
We Can Help
What if you are service and medically eligible, but have too much income or too many assets to qualify? Do not give up. Contact our law firm for assistance with the application process or to understand the various options that may be available to you as a veteran.