If you are a veteran who served on active duty in the military for ninety (90) days with at least one (1) day during wartime, then you and/or your surviving spouse may be entitled to a benefit through the VA called Aid and Attendance to help with your long-term care needs. This special pension is intended to provide financial assistance for veterans (or their surviving spouses) who are in need of the “aid and attendance” of a regular caregiver. If you need assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, feeding, dressing, grooming, and caring for your person, the VA will pay you a monthly pension of up to $2,120 per month for veterans and up to $1,149 for the surviving spouse. You do not have to suffer from a service-related disability in order to get this benefit; however, in order to qualify, you have to meet certain financial criteria as well.
As a general rule, in order to be financially eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a veteran cannot have more than $80,000 in countable resources. However, this asset limit is adjusted to a lesser amount based upon the applicant’s age, expenses, and life expectancy. There is also an income limit, but the limit is adjusted based upon the amount of unreimbursed medical expenses that you have. Medical expenses include such expenses as insurance premiums, at-home sitters, and nursing home costs.
There are several differences between the Aid and Attendance benefit and the Medicaid long-term care benefit:
1) Unlike Medicaid, the Aid and Attendance benefit can be used to pay for in-home care and not just nursing home care. You can also use the Aid and Attendance benefit to pay your children or relatives to care for you.
2) The Aid and Attendance benefit is not subject to estate recovery nor does it have to be repaid to the government upon the death of the recipient.
3) Also, under the current VA regulations, there is no look-back period for the transfer of assets; however, this is subject to change pursuant to pending legislation.
This Aid and Attendance pension is not a new benefit – it has been available to veterans and their surviving spouses for over sixty (60) years. However, not many veterans know about it.
Julie R. Johnson is accredited by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to assist veterans in the estate planning necessary to ensure entitlement to the Aid and Attendance Benefit.