Veterans Aid and Attendance: Why Not Qualified Doesn’t Mean Never Qualified

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Many seniors and their families automatically rule out senior living because they assume there’s no way they can afford it. Not so fast; especially if you are a wartime veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran. There’s a benefit known as Aid and Attendance which can significantly expand your buying power for senior living. Here’s how. There are a range of misperceptions when it comes to the Aid and Attendance benefit which can help wartime veterans or their surviving spouse pay for senior living costs. One of the biggest is that a ‘no’ means you’re ineligible forever. That’s not true! Learn how and why eligibility can change. Many seniors and their families automatically rule out senior living because they assume there’s no way they can afford it. Not so fast; especially if you are a wartime veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran. There’s a benefit known as Aid and Attendance which can significantly expand your buying power for senior living. Here’s how.

For more information on preparing financially for retirement, check out our Family Guide to Funding Senior Care & Housing!

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How Veterans Aid and Attendance Works

This benefit starts with the Basic Pension and, depending on your medical need, gives you a rating which may add additional money to your pension. But you must meet certain criteria which is generally described here:

  1. Military service – Served on Active Duty at least one day during a Period of War, at least 90 days in total and were other than dishonorably discharged. Or, your spouse at the time of their death met this criterion.
  2. Medical requirement – The medical rating is determined by the veteran’s medical situation if alive, of that of their surviving spouse. The applicant must meet at least one of these medical requirements.
  3. Financial requirement – This two-pronged requirement takes into account income and assets. Household income of the veteran or surviving spouse must be less than the pension in which you are applying. However, you can deduct your medical insurance premiums, including Medicare, as well as the cost of home care and independent or assisted living fees. The amount of assets you can have is equal to the Maximum Federal Community Spouse Resource Allowance defined by Medicaid – which is $129,094 for 2020. Assets exclude your primary home, family transportation and your normal personal possessions.

If You Don’t Qualify

If the reason a veteran or surviving spouse is ineligible is because they did not meet the medical requirement and/or the financial requirement, keep this in mind: medical conditions, income and assets change over time. This means that although you may be ineligible now, that may not be the case later. That’s why Aid and Attendance is not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ benefit but rather an ‘if’ and ‘when’ benefit.

How Can Aid and Attendance Offset Senior Living Costs?

The Aid and Attendance benefit is tax free and paid directly to you by the Treasury Department to help with senior living costs that include both assisted living and independent living.

To give you an idea of the impact this could have on your budget, the maximum benefit in 2020 for eligible applicants is:

  • Single Veteran – $1,911 monthly
  • Single Veteran with a Dependent Child – $2,266 monthly
  • Married Veteran – $2,266 monthly
  • Married Veteran with Spouse who needs care – $1,500 monthly
  • Surviving Spouse with no Dependents – $1,228 monthly
  • 2 Married Vets –
    • Only 1 Vet – $2,266 monthly
    • Both Vets – $3,032 monthly

This increase to your buying power not only opens up more options when it comes to selecting a senior living community, but it also enables a longer stay than your budget might have otherwise allowed.

Aid and Attendance Isn’t All or Nothing

It’s also important to note that it is possible to receive a partial benefit. For example, if your income minus deductions still leaves you with a positive amount, otherwise known as Income for VA purposes, this doesn’t mean you won’t receive any benefit. As long as that income is at least one less than the maximum pension benefit, then you can receive, approximately, the difference.

How to Apply

To apply for Aid and Attendance, send a completed VA form to the Pension Management Center (PMC) that serves your state. Or, apply in person at a VA office near you.

For more information, check out our Family Guide to Funding Senior Care & Housing!

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