More than one-third of Americans over 65 are either wartime veterans or are married to one. Many veteran families may not realize the benefits available to them to help offset the cost of senior care.
Less than 10 percent of those who qualify apply for Veterans Aid & Attendance use the benefit, which can be used to help pay for in-home care, board and care, assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities. This is because many veterans either are not informed or do not understand the benefits available to them.
It’s actually easier to qualify than you think. Many people easily qualify even without the slightest suspicion that they would. We are here to clear up the common misconceptions of veterans benefits for assisted living to ensure that every veteran has the opportunity to the benefits they have earned.
What are Veterans Benefits for Senior Living?
The Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit helps qualifying Veterans or their surviving spouses pay for in-home care or some form of assisted living/memory care in a retirement community. The program is referred to as Aid and Attendance and sometimes called “VA assisted living benefit” or “veterans eldercare benefit”. Thousands of families benefit from this pension program to help pay for quality care that they could not afford otherwise. If you qualify for Aid and Attendance, you will receive an additional monthly payment above the normal pension amount.
Who is Eligible for Veterans Benefits?
Any veteran, spouse, or family member of a veteran should explore Aid and Attendance. Veteran’s benefits for assisted living are needs-based and in order to be eligible, the veteran must meet the following criteria:
- Serve a minimum of 90 days in the service, and serve one day during wartime. This doesn’t mean you had to be on the frontlines, overseas, or in battle. Only that one day was during wartime which includes:
- World War II: December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946
- Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
- Vietnam War: August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975
- Gulf War: January 16, 1991 – February 28, 1991
- Have less than $10,000 in assets. It is important to note that there are VA compliant investments that the VA doesn’t take into consideration, including the value of your home and vehicles. Also, there is no look-back period, which means that moving money before applying is an option to meet this requirement.
- Your “countable” family income has to be less than your medical expenditures at the new assisted living community. For most people, this is an easy criterion to meet if you’re retired and your income is low.
- In need of at least two activities of daily living to be taken care of at the community, such as bathing assistance, transferring, dressing, continence management or medication management. This means that if you’re completely independent, it might be more difficult to qualify for benefits.
Spouses of veterans or surviving spouses can also be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits if they meet the following criteria:
- In need of at least two activities of daily living to be taken care of at the community.
- The claimant is bedridden, legally blind, or in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity.
In the case of a spouse, there must be no divorce or remarriage in order to qualify for benefits.
The amount awarded depends on the income of the applicant and the costs of care. The maximum monthly rates are as follows:
|Family Status||Aid & Attendance Maximum|
|Veteran with no dependents||Veteran with no dependents $22,577 annually or $1881.41/month|
|Veteran with a spouse or child||$20,731 annually or $1727.58/month|
|Surviving Spouse||Surviving Spouse $11,095 annually or $924.58/month|
Note: Veterans’ benefits may be added to your monthly pension, but cannot be combined with Housebound benefits.
How To Receive Veteran Benefits
- The VA Office: Of course, you can head to the VA office and apply for benefits, but that might not be the best course of action. It is our experience that when people go through the VA office, they often receive less in benefits. Sometimes the VA might even tell you don’t qualify, when you actually do.
- Apply on your own: The biggest problem you’ll face is that if you try to do it on your own, or even with assistance from the VA, that you won’t know for months whether you filled everything out correctly. The application and approval process can take months (nine months on average), and it’s frustrating to have no updates or oversight during this process. If it’s not done properly, you may be denied and that cannot be undone.
- Working with an Attorney: The best course is to seek a trusted adviser or Elder Law Attorney who specializes in filing for the VA Aid and Attendance benefit. It’s definitely worth a conversation with a professional to ensure it’s done properly for a quick and positive response.
The Approval Process
The application and approval process is a slow process. It can take weeks just to gather the necessary documents to start the application. Many families find it frustrating to apply because you have to be getting the care you can’t afford in order to qualify. Sad, but true. Fortunately, the Veteran’s benefits for assisted living pay retroactively upon approval. This means that the first payment includes a lump sum to cover the months when your application was pending. To help offset this cost in the interim, we have a list of companies who can bridge that financial gap until the benefits start coming in as well as financial advisors who offer free help.
Care For You Because You Cared For Us
If you are a veteran, or you’re the caregiver for a veteran and you are overwhelmed with the high cost of long-term elder care, help is on the way. Veterans Aid and Attendance benefit could be the solution to help offset these rising care costs. Patti Naiser with Senior Home Transitions can help put you in touch with the right professional that will help you get the Veteran’s benefits for assisted living you deserve!