As you consider assisted living for your loved one, your first question might be: Can we afford it? Your second question should be: Are there any government benefits that can help us meet the costs of assisted living? The answer is “yes” if your loved one is a Veteran or the surviving spouse of a Veteran.
Many Veterans don’t realize that they may be eligible for benefits from the Veterans Administration. The Aid and Attendance benefit is a non-service connected pension benefit for Veterans or spouses who need assistance with the activities of daily living, such as bathing, feeding, grooming and dressing. An individual residing in assisted living is generally presumed to be in need of aid and attendance.
Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit Requirements
To qualify, the Veteran must be 65 years of age or older and must have had 90 days in service, 1 day of which must have been during a period of war. Even if the Veteran never left the United States, he may still qualify as long as he meets these service requirements. In addition, the Veteran must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
The Veteran must also qualify financially for Aid and Attendance benefits. While there is currently no hard and fast figure, the general guideline is that the applicant must have less than $80,000 in resources (not including the primary residence and car). There is currently no penalty for asset transfers. As such, with proper planning, a Veteran can become financially eligible for the pension benefit.
As a need-based pension program, the Veteran does not have to have a service connected disability or a disability rating to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits.
Pension Benefits Available for a Surviving Spouse
A surviving spouse may be entitled to a Veteran’s pension provided she was married to the Veteran at the time of the Veteran’s death. The Veteran must have met all of the above service criteria. There is no age restriction for the widowed spouse.
If the surviving spouse remarries after the death of the Veteran, eligibility is terminated. The surviving spouse cannot have been divorced from the Veteran and must have been married for at least one (1) year prior to the Veteran’s death.
Aid and Attendance Benefit Amounts
The pension amount is based on need. The applicant must document their income (such as Social Security, pension, etc) and document their expenses, including medical expenses and the cost of assisted living. Veterans and spouses in assisted living typically qualify for the maximum benefit.
2013 Maximum Aid and Attendance Benefit Amounts
Veteran – $1,732/month
Veteran and Spouse – $2,054/month
Surviving Spouse – $1,113/month
Proper estate planning and asset protection planning may be necessary for the Veteran and/or spouse to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits. Families must also be mindful of Medicaid look-back and penalty periods when engaging in such planning.