Veterans and their surviving spouses as they grow older will usually need long-term care. The Veterans Administration has programs to help pay for this type of care but unfortunately many are not aware that these benefits exist.
The following types of benefits are available and the veteran and surviving spouse does not need to have service-related injuries, but must meet certain eligibility requirements for wartime service, age and/or disability, and income/assets.
The first is: Pension with Aid and Attendance.
This offers the highest possible monthly payment and provides benefits for a veteran or surviving spouse who requires the attendance of another person to assist in activities of daily living, is blind, or is a patient in a nursing home. Assisted care in an assisted living facility also qualifies. This benefit can provide up to approximately $1,704 per month to a veteran, $1,094 to a surviving spouse, or $2,020 to a couple. An independent and well veteran who has an ill spouse with medical expenses that deplete their combined monthly income can receive up to $1,338 per month. A physician’s statement that verifies the claimant’s condition and need for assistance is required.
The second is: Pension with Housebound Allowance.
This has lower benefit, but will help those who do not qualify for Aid and Attendance, and who wish to remain in either their own home or the home of a family member. This benefit requires that the individual needs regular assistance with lesser of a criteria as for those who would qualify for Aid and Attendance. Care can be provided by family members or outside caregiver agencies. A physician’s statement documenting the claimant’s medical needs is required.
The third is Basic Pension
This is for veterans and surviving spouses who are age 65 or older or are disabled, and who have limited income and assets. No physician’s statement documenting a medical need is required.
To Qualify for these benefits a veteran must first meet certain criteria, such as wartime service, 65 or older, or be permanently and totally disabled, and certain income and asset requirements must be met.
Many times the asset level requirement is difficult to meet. When determining eligibility, the VA looks at a claimant’s total net worth, life expectancy, income and medical expenses. A married veteran and spouse should have no more than $80,000 in “countable assets,” which includes retirement assets but does not include a home and vehicle.
Income for VA Purposes (called IVAP) must be less than the benefit for which the claimant is applying. IVAP is calculated by subtracting countable medical expenses from the claimant’s gross income from all sources. Countable medical expenses are recurring out-of-pocket medical expenses that can be expected to continue through the claimant’s lifetime.
It often takes the VA more than a year to make a decision, but once approved, benefits are paid retroactively to the month after the application is submitted. Processing time can be greatly reduced by having the proper documentation (discharge papers, medical evidence, proof of medical expenses, death certificate, marriage certificate and a properly completed application) at the time of application.
Because time is critical for these aging veterans and their surviving spouses, application should be made as soon as possible. And while it is possible to do this without legal assistance, an Elder Law attorney who has experience with securing VA benefits will undoubtedly be able to help the process go as smoothly and quickly as possible.