As Memorial Day approaches, I am reminded of the sacrifices our Veterans have made so we, the people, can retain our freedoms. Many of these veterans require some form of long-term care; yet, very few are aware of the benefits that may be available to help them pay for that care.
If you are a Veteran or surviving spouse of a deceased Veteran and your income is not sufficient to cover your long-term care expenses, you may qualify for a benefit called Aid and Attendance through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”). This benefit provides a monthly, tax-free income for the Veteran or surviving spouse who needs assistance with at least two activities of daily living and who is in a nursing home or other facility or paying for care at home.
There are four basic eligibility requirements for the Aid and Attendance benefit: (1) you must be 65 or older, or permanently disabled; (2) your discharge from the military must be anything other than dishonorable; (3) you must have served at least ninety (90) days on active duty, but those days do not have to be consecutive unless service began after September 7, 1980, or any length of active duty if the Veteran has a service-connected disability discharge; and (4) one of those active duty days must have been during a period of war. For VA purposes, the periods of war include the Mexican Border Period, World Wars I and II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam Era and Persian Gulf War.
In addition to the eligibility criteria, the Veteran must also meet the entitlement requirements. For a Veteran to be entitled to the benefit, the Veteran must pass the income and asset tests. Generally, if the Veteran’s liquid assets are less than $80,000 and their income is less than their unreimbursed medical expenses, then the Veteran or surviving spouse will be eligible for the benefit. Unreimbursed medical expenses include, but are not limited to, health insurance premiums (Medicare, supplemental insurance, etc.), prescription co-pays, doctor co-pays, nursing home or assisted living facilities or in-home caregivers.
When determining countable assets, the VA does not count the equity in a primary residence and household furnishings, vehicles, pre-paid burial plans, term life insurance, irrevocable trusts and qualified annuities. If the Veteran’s countable assets total $80,000 or more, a claims examiner will determine if the Veteran’s net worth is excessive and a bar to entitlement of the benefit.
Moreover, a Veteran eligible for the benefit and who has a dependent spouse, will be entitled to $2,169 per month. An eligible single Veteran will be entitled to $1,830 and an eligible surviving spouse will receive $1,176 monthly.
As with any government benefit, the application process can be daunting. If you need assistance filing an application for benefits, contact a VA accredited consultant. They can assist you in making sure you have a fully developed claim.