Recent Changes to Veterans Aid and Attendance (and How They Benefit You)

When it comes to healthy aging, quite honestly, there’s a lot to do. You’re supposed to make sure to keep your body active and your brain engaged all while maintaining your social connections as well. Sure, the benefits to your overall well-being are worth the effort, but retirement is supposed to be a time with less responsibility on your plate, right? Well, it turns out that in senior living you can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Here’s how programs like our Vivid Life make keeping active, engaged, and connected easy and fun! 

Benefits of Healthy Aging 

Good things happen when you focus on healthy aging. In addition to feeling better overall, which in and of itself is a win, other benefits of keeping active, engaged, and connected include:  

  • Improved ability to do everyday things ​ 
  • Reduced impact of illness and chronic disease​ 
  • Enhanced mobility, flexibility, and balance
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy level
  • Reduced feelings of depression and stress
  • Increased feelings of happiness and self-confidence
  • Reduced risk of cognitive decline 
  • Increased mental adaptability and cognitive reserve 
  • Improved memory recall and problem-solving skills 
  • Improved concentration and attention to detail  

How Senior Living Can Help 

At home, particularly when living alone, it can be hard to stay as active, engaged, and connected as you’d like. From lack of opportunity to lack of motivation to lack of transportation to mobility challenges, and more, it’s tough, we get it! That’s why we created the Vivid Life program in our senior living communities. It’s composed of three parts: Vibrant Body, Vibrant Brain, and Vibrant Connections. Here’s what each entails:  

Vibrant Body We offer amenities such as a state-of-the-art fitness center, a pool, walking trails, gardening opportunities, and even a dog park to help you stay active. A sample of activities includes:  

  • Walking club – Daily walks at different outdoor locations using pedometers to measure steps. 
  • Yoga – At least once per week for gentle yoga, and once per week for mindful breathing. 
  • Fitness classes – At least two times per week using a variety of hand weights, resistance bands, and circuit-type exercises. 
  • Tai Chi – At least once per week with a live instructor. 
  • Non-traditional exercise – Dancing, gardening, etc. at least two times per week. 
  • Physical games and sports – Golf, putting, bowling, croquet, bocce, and ping pong available daily with organized events one to two times per week. 

Vibrant Brain We offer monthly calendars filled with classes, events, creative arts, and enrichment opportunities to help keep you engaged. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Visiting lecture series – Twice per month with topics such as cultural, historical, local interest, career-oriented, etc. 
  • Creative art series – At least one per week with a theme that runs 3-6 weeks, such as poetry writing, storytelling, painting, digital photography, etc. 
  • Learning series – At least three times per month with an emphasis on learning something new such as foreign language, sign language, technology, hobbies, etc. 
  • Games – At least one time per week and may include poker, bridge, Scrabble, etc. 
  • Mindfulness – A meditation class once per week and gratitude discussion group twice monthly. 
  • Church service – At least once a week through visits by local churches. 
  • Stress reduction – At least once per month class that offers deep breathing exercises, nature walks, music appreciation, spa-type treatments, etc. 

 Vibrant Connections We offer resident-led clubs, social events, outings and volunteer opportunities for any interest to help you stay connected. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Outings – At least twice per month and may include going to concerts, art shows, museum visits, theatre productions, etc. 
  • Intergenerational programming – At least once per month and focuses on building relationships between young adults/children and residents. 
  • New resident welcome party – At least once per month to formally introduce all new residents, and includes ice breakers, social games, etc. to encourage connection. 
  • Philanthropic program – At least once per month provide residents the opportunity to give back to the community, such as volunteering for a local food bank or pet shelter. 
  • Resident-led clubs – May include game clubs, professional clubs, common interests, etc. that meet at least monthly.  

What’s more, it’s all right outside your door (or transportation is provided offsite) and all in a supportive environment with home maintenance, housekeeping, and restaurant-style dining freeing your time to make it even easier to stay active, engaged, and connected. 

Learn more about Vitality Living’s Vivid Life programs. Or find a Vitality Living community near you today to schedule a tour. 

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Although the Veterans Aid and Attendance benefit has been around since the 1950s, many people either still aren’t familiar with it or don’t fully understand how helpful it can be when it comes to paying for senior living. Even among those who are aware, there’s still the perception that Aid and Attendance isn’t worth the trouble. But with recent sweeping changes to the benefit, those naysayers couldn’t be more wrong. Learn about the changes and how they can benefit you.

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

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The Facts on Veterans Aid and Attendance

If you are a wartime veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran, the Aid and Attendance benefit can help pay for care in senior living such as independent living or assisted living as well as in home health care, adult day care or skilled nursing. If you qualify for a VA pension you may be eligible for this additional benefit if you meet at least one of these medical requirements.

Recent Changes to Veterans Aid and Attendance

In 2018, the VA made two big changes to the approval process for the Aid and Attendance benefit:

  1. The maximum amount of assets a claimant, whether single or married, is allowed to have is now equal to the Community Spouse Resource Allowance defined by Medicaid ($129,094 for 2020).
  2. A three-year look back period for the transfer of assets. This means that if you transfer or gift assets during this time period, and the asset would have put you over the maximum amount, a penalty period not to exceed 5 years will be calculated based on the portion of the transferred assets that would have made net worth too much.

The Benefit of Aid and Attendance Changes

By increasing the maximum amount of assets, more applicants either qualify immediately or qualify earlier than they would have before (even without transferring assets). 

But if you do have assets over the maximum amount, don’t rush to transfer them. First, consider how long it will take for your assets to decline naturally and then determine if that time frame will be longer than the look-back period.

Also keep in mind that if you have a primary home you wish to rent, the VA will no longer count the home as an asset. Rather, they will keep it excluded as a primary home. This allows you maximize the earning potential of the home to pay for care while still retaining ownership.

Aid and Attendance Impact on Financial Planning

If you’re considering senior living, qualifying for the Aid and Attendance benefit gives you much more buying power. For example, the maximum benefit in 2020 for qualified 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

As such, this additional (and tax-free) benefit could significantly impact your financial planning by:

  • Opening up more options when it comes to choosing senior living communities.
  • Enabling a longer stay in the community than your budget otherwise may have allowed.

To Apply for Veterans 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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