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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.
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:
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 cost of assisted living, nursing home or home health care can be substantial. The average cost of assisted is approximately 60% of the cost of a nursing home, while the average cost of a nursing home in the Southeast Tennessee area is approximately $6,700 per month and the national median hourly rate for a licensed home health aide is $21. Aid and Attendance Benefits could help defray these types of costs for qualified veterans and their surviving spouses.
*Note: these maximum benefit amounts may fluctuate and the actual benefit that is approved may be less.
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 VA defines the need for aid and attendance as:
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. Although you may hear or read that having up to $80,000 in assets (exclusive of a home and a car) is acceptable, consider this merely a general rule of thumb. In contrast to Medicaid eligibility, there are no set asset limits when it comes to Aid and Attendance eligibility. The final decision regarding the asset test depends on the VA reviewer. In addition to the asset test, there also is an income test. As with the asset test, there is no specified income limit. However, the VA considers what it refers to as IVAP – Income for VA Purposes. IVAP is equal to your gross income from all sources, less a portion of unreimbursed medical expenses. If your IVAP is not less than the annual benefit amount, you will not be eligible for benefits.
What if you are service and medically eligible, but have too many assets or too much income to qualify? You may consider rearranging your assets and/or income to qualify, which may include re-titling or giving away assets, or establishing a Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance Pensions Benefits Trust. Making these types of changes is perfectly legal, but doing so properly can be complicated. 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. Our office can assist you in planning your assets to position you to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits.