Tips to Navigate the Veterans Aid and Attendance Application Process

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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Aid & Attendance is a wonderful benefit that can help wartime veterans or their surviving spouse pay for senior living costs. However, it can be a daunting process to navigate on your own. Learn how using a VA accredited agent 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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Understanding Aid and Attendance

Veterans Aid and Attendance can help pay for senior living in independent living or assisted living as well as home health care, adult day care or skilled nursing. If you receive a VA pension you may be eligible for this additional award if you meet at least one of these medical requirements.

What Makes Applying So Complex?

To start, in 2018 the VA made two big changes to the approval process for pensions with 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 – which is $129,094 for 2020.
  2. A three-year look back period for the transfer of assets which means that if you transfer or gift assets during this 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 excessive.

While these changes are fantastic for applicants, the information required for the three-year look back information in particular adds an extra layer of complexity which causes this form alone to go from 4-5 pages to 19 pages! When you add in the other forms and supporting documentation; applications are commonly over 40 pages.

The Benefits of Getting Help

But it’s not just the length of the application that makes the process complex, it’s also all understanding all the nuances. Plus, being able to make sense of fact versus fiction as all sorts of myths abound when it comes to Aid and Attendance.

An expert who knows all the rules and regulations, as well as how the VA works can help make the process much easier, and make sure you get the benefits you deserve to pay towards senior living costs. And while the VA may tell you to expect it to take 12 to 18 months for your application to be approved, a VA accredited agent can typically help reduce that time significantly.

Beware of Aid and Attendance Scams

But don’t just accept the help of anyone; there have been numerous instances of people trying to take advantage of veterans who might qualify for Aid and Attendance. Known as pension poaching, they may offer financial strategies to help you get around the rules by transferring enough of your assets for you to meet the VA requirements. But they often leave out the fact that this can easily be caught during the “look back” periods for Aid and Attendance and Medicaid, potentially disqualifying you from these benefits altogether.

In the meantime, they’ve charged you hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees for their ‘services.’

Here’s what to watch out for:

  • An organization or individual that contacts you out of the blue and offers to assist you with an Aid and Attendance claim.
  • Pressure to act fast.
  • Vague or evasive answers to your questions.

And keep in mind, just because “veterans” or “military families” is in an organization’s name doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legitimate.

What to do instead:

  • Contact agents accredited by the VA that have the required training to complete and submit claims, as well as help in the appeal process if necessary.
  • Carefully read all paperwork related to an investment or application.
  • Discuss any proposed pension or investment with a trusted friend or family member before taking action.

Note that VA accredited agents typically offer services either free of charge or for just a minimal fee.

If you’ve been approached or victimized by a pension poacher, you can file a complaint with the FTC.

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

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